This profile was prepared when Ursula Sladek was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Ursula is the first person to show that electricity production and distribution under responsible citizens is a green and economical alternative to that supplied by a small number of monopolists. Her citizen-owned social business company Elektrizitätswerke Schönau or Power Supplier of Schönau (EWS), has disrupted the pricing and policy monopoly of large utility companies, and pioneered the green energy movement, delivering nuclear-free renewable energy to households and businesses alike. Ursula anticipated a move that would later be laid down by statute in Germany: The liberalization of energy markets. Furthermore, Ursula pioneered a pattern of green, decentralized energy production. She enables citizens to become private green energy producers and to sell their electricity surplus back into the grid. With an energy efficiency rate of 90 percent, these independent citizen producers are three times more efficient than a conventional power plant, which wastes up to 70 percent of produced energy through heat. In addition, with EWS’s motto, “We only sell you the energy that you cannot save,” Ursula positively tackles the contradiction that other energy utilities ignore—namely, between the desire to maximize profits and the need to save resources. With her social business and through the help of campaigns and collaborations with other citizen organizations (COs), she actively helps customers reduce their consumption and hence their emission rate. Thereby, she manages to instill in citizens a feeling of belonging to an important movement for both civic participation and climate protection.
Featured in Rippling: How Social Entrepreneurs Spread Innovation Throughout the World, by Bev Schwartz (2012)