Like many German consumers, Christine Lacher, a nurse, and her husband, Reinhard, a factory supervisor, are careful when it comes to energy use. On a hillside here, they have built their dream house, insulated by clay walls with warm water piped through them. On the roof, they have installed solar water heaters and panels sufficient to generate enough power for their own needs, including charging their Nissan Leaf electric car, and still have some left over to sell to the power grid. "I can say I produce my energy myself," Mr. Lacher said. "It is important for me."
Although the Lachers have paid thousands of euros for all of their energy-saving and generating equipment, they say their investment will be worthwhile in the long run. They say that being more independent will buffer them from the stiff increases in electric bills that they and other consumers have come to expect from Germany's large utilities. They are also happy to have largely weaned themselves off electricity generated by nuclear power and fossil fuels like oil and gas. "I can pride myself that I can save money, and it is good for the world," Mr. Lacher said.
A big chunk of the Lachers' investment went for a battery supplied by a company based in this Alpine village. The company, Sonnen, is a small enterprise with about 400 employees, but it has big ambitions. It started out supplying batteries, but it wants to parlay its skills in storing and digitally managing electricity to challenge and even supplant the giant utilities.
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