City and municipal works

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West thermal power station of Karlsruhe Stadtwerke

City and municipal utilities (sometimes grouped under the umbrella term public utilities ) are municipal corporations (d. H. Public or semi-public companies in the majority ownership of one or more municipalities ) that in a public contract technical services and utilities , particularly in the area of primary care and the general interest of the population, provide or provide municipal infrastructure .


Since up to the end of the 20th century almost exclusively cities had their own economic and infrastructure companies, the term municipal utilities had become a collective term for all such municipal companies. This is related, among other things, to the definition of the term city . Since, however, since the liberalization of the supply markets, more and more municipalities (municipalities) without city ​​status have established similar businesses, the term “city and municipal works” has been used in recent times . But since Stadtwerke is an established term, this was left and only supplemented. In this combination, “community [works]” is not a collective term for all types of communities, but for non-urban ones. The (actually synonymous) term municipal works is used as a collective term .

In particular in non-urban municipalities there are various alternative names; in the case of communal associations, depending on the type, for example, Verbandsgemeindewerke (for association communities ) or district works (for districts ) Instead of works , the designations (technical) services or companies , economic , service or supply companies can also be found . In market towns to some extent the term is market works used.

All of these terms are used almost exclusively in the plural, like a plural tantum .

The term Stadtwerke is not a standing legal term, whereby in corporation tax law these activities are defined as those of a "utility company". Occasionally, the term “Stadtwerke” is also used for privately owned companies, but this is not permitted under competition law as a private company name.


The original communalization of these previously privately owned businesses goes back to the municipal socialism movement at the end of the 19th century.

In the 1980s and 1990s in particular, municipal utilities were often sold in part or as a whole to private companies and investor groups as part of privatization - mostly as a measure to reorganize municipal budgets - or the tasks were outsourced to private companies.

In the new federal states, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the decision was made as to what should happen to the local energy infrastructure. A settlement before the Federal Constitutional Court on December 22, 1992 finally gave the East German municipalities a claim to electricity and gas assets in their respective municipality area and the right to set up their own municipal utilities. An oligopolistically designed supply structure under the control of the large German interconnected companies could thus be prevented in favor of a pluralistic energy industry in the new federal states.

From the year 2000 onwards, a series of so-called remunicipalisations can be observed, in some cases supported by citizens' petitions or referendums, whereby some of the services provided are now provided in competition with the free market (especially in electricity and gas sales) or an obligation to tender Subject to reassignment.

Legal status and organization

In Germany and Austria Stadtwerke, both as a public company ( self-propelled , run utility or public institution as) the private sector as a GmbH or AG to be organized. In the case of organization under private law, some, such as Stadtwerke Köln, are structured as an investment company that participates in operationally active companies.

Municipal utilities are subject to municipal legal regulations. Stadtwerke's mission is to pursue the public purpose, also known as services of general interest . This includes functions of the state, which ensure the basic supply of the population with essential goods and services, in the sense of a livelihood or basic civilization. The supply and disposal security, infrastructure and public transport is a communal duty and an essential part of communal services of general interest. As a result, the public sector has a responsibility to the population in order to ensure basic needs at affordable prices.

As far as municipal utilities are network operators, they are subject to regulation by the regulatory authority . In particular, this defines the upper revenue limit for network operation, from which the network charges are determined.

Typical services of municipal utilities were or are among others:

Supply and disposal


Provision (construction, care and maintenance - new German facility management , ...) of communal infrastructure facilities:

Public transport

The municipality has responsibility and obligation to supply public transport in the municipality ( ÖPNV ). It must offer all citizens adequate access to transport and thus ensure mobility.

Larger municipalities have often outsourced public transport to separate transport companies.

Transport operations also include the infrastructure required for this (see section Infrastructure above ).


Interest groups

The nationwide representation of interests in Germany takes place u. a. via the Association of Municipal Enterprises (VKU) and the Federal Association of Public Services . In Austria, the Austrian Association of Public Economy and Community takes on a similar task.

At European level, public utilities in the cross-sectoral European Center of Enterprises with Public Participation ( english European Center of Enterprises with Public Participation and of Enterprises of General Economic Interest , CEEP) and the European Association of Independent Power and Gasverteilunternehmen ( French Groupement Européen des entreprises et Organismes de Distribution d'Energie , GEODE).

Joint ventures (associations)

Especially since the liberalization of the energy markets at the end of the 1990s, many municipal utilities have joined forces in joint ventures or consortia in order to develop synergies and - also as a counterweight to the previously dominant energy groups - to appear on the market together. The main goals are:

  • joint procurement , resulting in lower purchase prices in energy trading
  • Joint development, construction and operation of larger technical systems, especially power plants, resulting in better utilization, lower operating costs and higher income
  • joint administration and services, thus more effective use of personnel and cost reduction


  • Thüga (after repurchase / remunicipalisation)

See also


  • Dietmar Bräunig, Wolf Gottschalk (ed.): Stadtwerke. Basics, framework conditions, leadership and operation . 1st edition. Nomos, 2012, ISBN 978-3-8329-7250-9 .
  • Horst Wildemann: Stadtwerke: Success factors for European infrastructure and utility service providers . 1st edition. TCW Transfer-Centrum, Munich 2009, ISBN 978-3-937236-90-2 .
  • Franz Schuster: Kommunale Betriebe (=  workbooks on local politics . Volume 4 ). 2nd Edition. Kommunal-Verlag, 1990.
  • Michael Reich, Adrian Wepner: Central challenges for public utilities . Hansebuch, Hamburg / Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-937613-15-3 .
  • Erich Gruner, Beat Junker: Citizens, State and Politics in Switzerland. Lehrmittelverl, Basel 1972, OCLC 601004769 .

Web links

Commons : Stadtwerke  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Stadtwerke  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Rupert Scholz , Rainer Pitschas : Community economy between administrative and corporate structure: legal and organizational issues for modern management of local community businesses (=  publications on public law . Volume 416 ). Duncker & Humblot, 1982, ISBN 3-428-05146-7 ( limited preview in Google book search).
  2. In Germany there is a separate organization with the German Association of Cities (see The member cities of the Association of German Cities ), in Austria a comparable delimitation is made with the statutory city
  3. Example: “Swiss Citypower” becomes “Swisspower”. (PDF; 18 kB) Press release. Swisspower , September 18, 2001, archived from the original on March 8, 2014 ; Retrieved June 6, 2012 .
  4. Eon can sell HSE shares to the municipality. Handelsblatt , February 14, 2012, archived from the original on February 21, 2012 ; Retrieved February 21, 2012 .
  5. ^ BGH, judgment of June 13, 2012 - I ZR 228/10 (“Stadtwerke Wolfsburg”; PDF , ); Frankfurt Higher Regional Court, judgment of November 24, 2011, Az .: 6 U 277/10
  6. Christian Held: Prerequisite for the establishment of a municipal energy supply in the new federal states . In: Unternehmerin Kommune + Forum Neue Länder, special edition 5/2010 . S. 25th ff .
  7. ^ Christoph Göbel: Remunicipalisation of supply tasks. Intermunicipal cooperation in energy supply . Presentation for the lecture during the Speyer municipal days . German University of Administrative Sciences, Speyer 2010 ( Online as PDF ( Memento from November 5, 2012 in the Internet Archive )).
  8. F. Buchmann: Municipal energy supply companies in the crisis. Vol. 143/2009 NOMOS Verlag, Baden-Baden.
  9. a b H.-J. Reck: Stadtwerke in the area of ​​tension between public mandate, social market economy and politics. in: D. Bräunig, W. Gottschalk (ed.): Stadtwerke. Basics, framework conditions, leadership and operation. 1st edition, NOMOS-Verlag, Baden-Baden, 2012, pp. 13–33.
  10. What actually is public services of general interest. Difu reports May 8, 2013