Green market stopped at the start -- Players waiting in the wings

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The promised liberalisation of the Dutch green electricity market has, as predicted, been set back from January 1 to early spring. The system of green certificates which will enable Dutch consumers to shop around for their green power will only be ready for introduction at the start of April, or possibly March, according to Jan van Diepen of the economics ministry.

The delay has forced a number of organisations set on exploiting the new market to postpone their initiatives. Greenpeace Nederland has suspended its plans to market its own-brand green electricity, "at least until April," says the group's renewable energy campaigner Sander van Egmond.

Under its "Green Energy!" scheme announced at the end of October (Windpower Monthly, December 2000), Greenpeace intended to use the latest hike in the country's eco-tax on power from non-renewable sources to market green power at a fully competitive rate to "grey" power. This would prevent the power companies marketing green power at an artificially high price, claimed the environmental organisation.

Whether it will be necessary to introduce the Green Energy! scheme in April remains to be seen, says Van Egmond. Giant Dutch utility Essent is currently selling green electricity at the same price as grey, apparently removing the need for Greenpeace to turn power seller.

Greenpeace will continue to monitor the situation, however. "We won't recommend Green Energy! subscribers go to Essent until Essent provides more transparency about the sources of its dirty power mix," says Van Egmond, echoing calls in the Dutch parliament for power companies to come clean on the sourcing of their non-renewables mix.

Also in waiting

Other market players are also waiting in the wings, further complicating the picture. Echte-Energie, a new dotcom intent on marketing "real green power" over the Internet, is one of them. Formed from a consortium of three companies -- an advertising agency, an IT concern and a renewable energy consultancy -- it has also postponed its launch until April 1. Once on-line, the company will offer subscribers the chance to design their own green electricity contracts around their own preferred renewable resources. What impact this will have on the market, however, remains to be seen: "We will be offering packages at a range of rates and currently have reserves for an estimated 10,000 customers," says Echte-Energie's Kurt Bisschop.

At the moment the enterprise has the blessing of Greenpeace. "Obviously as an environmental organisation we would be unwilling to undermine this sort of initiative," says Van Egmond.

Charge card

Elsewhere, uncertainty over the details of the green certificate system is frustrating efforts to finance a new smart card based "green electricity" meter. The Green Power eXchange (GPX) unit, designed by Egbert Bouwhuis, is a socket extension which allows consumers to measure their consumption of green electricity on a digital display. It features a smart card which can be charged with the required amount of kilowatt hours by the renewables producer and discharged at the point of consumption. As such it acts as a virtual certificate and once in production would provide a simple means of buying and selling green power directly.

April start

Financing further development of GPX depends on knowing the precise form of the green certificate system, specifically whether certificates will be directly linked to ecotax reimbursements, says Bouwhuis. As yet his numerous requests to the ministry of finance for further details have met with no reply.

For its part the economics ministry denies persistent rumours that the finance ministry is reluctant to approve the system. There are no insurmountable problems, says Van Diepen, who is fully confident that the green certificate system will be operational on April 1.

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