At the inauguration there were "electric sausages"

On December 4, 1897, a Saturday, the people of Dachau put on their festive robes. Flags adorn the streets and alleys, carriages carry the mayor and other important personalities of the city to the newly built power station two kilometers away. Flags solemnly fluttered in the wind there too. Hundreds of curious people have gathered in front of the building. The pastor conducts the inauguration. The floodgates are opened and the work begins to move. The first stream illuminates a cross in the house. Oskar von Miller, a co-owner of the plant, invites the guests to a glass of beer and “electric sausages”, which are electrically heated Viennese sausages. This is how a historical review of the Stadtwerke tells the ceremonial opening of the power station.

This power station was the beginning of the Dachau public utility company, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. Today they stand for electricity and gas supply as well as drinking water and waste water in Dachau. Public transport in the large district town would be unthinkable without them: the entire bus network is made available by them, and the public utilities also provide the call-collective taxi services (AST) and public charging stations for e-vehicles. There are now twenty of these charging stations, and more are planned. The public utilities are also involved in the pool sector: they provide the family pool and the indoor pool – and have been doing so since 1962 and 1972 respectively.

The fact that the municipal utilities have arrived in the 21st century is shown by their participation in the expansion of the telecommunications infrastructure. The fiber optic lines laid in the city are 155 kilometers long. In the old town there is free, publicly accessible WiFi.

Stadtwerke Dachau: In Dachau, bathing trips have long been part of childhood memories.

In Dachau, bathing trips have long been part of childhood memories.

(Photo: Stadtwerke Dachau)

Private wells used to feed the city

The historical review of the Stadtwerke reads a bit like a city chronicle, since the historical milestones of the Stadtwerke are also the milestones of urban progress. The cornerstone was laid by connecting the town to a hydroelectric power station, which Oskar von Miller had built in Günding together with other Dachau citizens, such as the innkeeper Thomas Schwarz.

Miller is considered a pioneer in the field of hydropower and was the founder of the Deutsches Museum. Born in Munich in 1855, the civil engineer dealt intensively with new energy generation as a young man, later he electrified numerous cities and communities. Streets, schools and squares are named after him today. Miller’s face with a thick full beard, bushy eyebrows and a serious look can be found on postage stamps. His bust is in the Munich Hall of Fame. An asteroid is even named after him, the “(59389) Oskarvonmiller” was discovered by astronomers in 2017. The Dachauer Stadtwerke owe him a lot.

Stadtwerke Dachau: The hydroelectric power station of the Dachau Stadtwerke on the Amper in 1960.

The hydroelectric power station of the Dachauer Stadtwerke on the Amper in 1960.

(Photo: Stadtwerke Dachau)

In 1905 the private “electricity works Dachau GmbH” went into the hands of the city. For what was then an extremely high price of 410,000 marks – today that would be around three million euros.

For the longest time, Dachau’s water supply was guaranteed by wells in various places in the city. Often these were private wells. The big turning point came with a 62 meter deep well, dug in 1906 on the site of the electricity works and put into operation in 1910. For four years, the royal family and the market community could not agree on where to put the water tower. The cleaner drinking water was pumped into the city using the company’s own power plants. The four Dachau breweries Hörhammerbräu, Unterbräu, Zieglerbräu and Birgmannbräu as well as the Malzfabrik were among the largest consumers of water.

Stadtwerke Dachau: Around 1900: View from the Schlossberg to what was then the

Around 1900: view from the Schlossberg of what was then the “Upper Paper Factory” between Mühlbach and Amper. The building of the director’s apartment is now the headquarters of the Dachau public utility company.

(Photo: Stadtwerke Dachau)

According to the name, the “Stadtwerke Dachau” has existed since 1939, when the Günding power plant, the pumping station and the waterworks were combined. And thus became the “own operation of the city of Dachau “.

The gas supply lined up relatively early in the long 125-year history. She started with town gas: a gas produced by gasifying coal, but poisonous due to its high carbon monoxide content. Unlike natural gas, which would soon oust its toxic cousin. In 1917, the city secured a city gas supply with the Pasing municipal works. The line was built in 1925, after which city and natural gas flowed. The Munich Stadtwerke took over Dachau’s gas supply when Pasing was incorporated into the state capital. Gas supply came into the hands of Dachau only late: In the course of the liberalization of the energy market initiated by the EU, Dachau terminated its contract with Munich. Since 2003, the Dachauer Stadtwerke have been handling the gas supply.

The municipal utilities have so far left their Nazi past unexplored

The period of National Socialism and how the municipal utility benefited from it – or was harmed – remains unmentioned at the Dachauer Stadtwerke. In the historical overview that they make publicly available on their website, the infrastructure provider does not provide any information on this. Stadtwerke spokeswoman Cornelia Scheyerl says that not much is known from this period. However, the municipal utilities are open to a detailed historical description of the Nazi era and would undertake in-depth research.

Stadtwerke Dachau: Plant Director Robert Haimerl gives a speech on the occasion of the handover of new natural gas buses to Stadtwerke Dachau.

Plant director Robert Haimerl gives a speech on the occasion of the handover of new natural gas buses to Stadtwerke Dachau.

(Photo: Niels P. Jørgensen)

The boss of the Dachauer Stadtwerke Robert Haimerl says about today’s challenges: “We suffer from the constantly increasing bureaucracy of energy regulation, public procurement law and the various tens of thousands of other German laws.” As a result, his employees are stressed “up to the limit of their performance”. In addition, the number of applicants is falling. “It’s getting increasingly difficult.”

On the occasion of the anniversary, Haimerl wants to draw lessons from history. “What we can learn from 125 years of Stadtwerke Dachau is that energy supply and services of general interest is an extremely long-term business. Many projects require staying power and in many cases perseverance. The most important thing, however, is the wealth that our predecessors built up and have earned, to maintain, to continue and to further develop”.

Bathrooms and parking lots generate losses on the balance sheet

The bottom line is that Stadtwerke generated a loss of around one million euros in 2021. In recent years, special editions, such as increased frequency in transport operations, have been necessary. Water and waste water meant a minus of around 1.5 million euros last year. The business with the baths, as well as the younger division of public parking lots, are not profitable. The transport company made a loss last year. Electricity and gas, on the other hand, together brought in almost 2.5 million euros.

The war in the Ukraine affects the plant director of the public utility company. You can only pass on the increased prices, he says. Otherwise the public utilities would go bankrupt. With a view to the future, Haimerl says: “We can only recommend that our customers keep sufficient reserves for rising electricity and gas prices and for the upcoming ancillary cost bills.” In his opinion, the phase of low energy prices is over.

The Dachauer Stadtwerke invite interested parties to the Stadtwerke-Tag on October 9th from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The meeting point is the head office on Brunngartenstrasse. From there, free shuttles run to guided tours of the trades and systems, such as the sewage treatment or water works.

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