Creative marketing blossoms -- Dutch green power

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These days power retailers in the Netherlands seem to be devoting their entire advertising budgets to promoting green branded electricity. In the latest creative marketing stratagems, Dutch consumers are being offered a share in their own wind turbine as a reward for convincing a friend to go green, while supermarkets are looking at generating and selling their own wind energy.

This eagerness to jump on the green power bandwagon is not hard to understand. The amount of green electricity sold in the Netherlands has soared from 350 million kWh in 1999 to 2400 million kWh in October 2001 -- enough to meet the needs of about 600,000 households.

Typical of deals being done is one concluded in December by independent green energy retailer Energie Concurrent. It is to buy the kilowatt hours and green certificates produced by wind turbines belonging to the Meerwind co-operative. In return, the co-operative will not only receive a "substantially better" contract price than from the current purchaser, Nuon, it also stands to gain an influx of new members and new revenue. Each existing member who persuades a new member to join the co-operative has been promised a share in future Meerwind projects worth EUR 12, says Energie Concurrent's Michiel Rexwinkel. The sum will be paid directly to Meerwind and used to fund new projects.

Price negotiated

Meerwind was set up in 1989 and has 550 members who provided the capital for two turbines built in eye-catching locations along the A4 motorway connecting Amsterdam and the Hague. Until November, the output of these units was contracted to giant utility Nuon, which also claimed the all-important green certificates qualifying the power to be sold as green electricity. In the deal with Energie Concurrent, says Meerwind's Horst Radema, a better price has been negotiated for the green certificates. Meerwind will invest the extra revenue in a 6-8 MW project, also alongside the A4, which should be constructed in 2003.

Energie Concurrent, which promises to deliver green power to consumers at between EUR 0.01-0.0577 kWh cheaper than conventional electricity from the local power company, continues to expand says Rexwinkel. It has some 6,500 clients but has power enough for 12,000. From last month the concern refined its product range to offer separately labelled brands of green power, including pure wind and pure biomass packets. Worryingly for wind, the price differential between the two renewable resources has already led some green consumers to shift from wind to biomass.

Signs of creative thought being applied to new production possibilities are also apparent in the world of Dutch supermarkets. They are looking at the possibility of selling own-generated wind energy as a premium product. According to industry news magazine Distrifood Nieuwsblad, the sector expects wind turbines to be built on the sites of 35% of Dutch supermarket distribution centres by 2010. These will not only cover the centres' own power needs, but should provide a "lucrative product" for supermarket chains.

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