Greenpeace takes on utilities

Building on its experience selling green power to the Germans, Greenpeace is to offer Dutch consumers the chance to buy electricity from renewable energy plant at competitive rates as of January 1, 2001.

The "Green Energy!" initiative, announced at the end of October, is intended to "break open the Dutch energy market," explains Greenpeace Nederland renewable energy campaigner Sander van Egmond. "We are not re-defining our core business by turning power seller, rather we want to ensure that Dutch consumers can purchase power generated from renewable resources at a competitive price."

With the Dutch ecotax (REB) on fossil fuel power set to increase from NLG 0.10/kWh to NLG 0.15/kWh on January 1, giving a grey power kWh price of some NLG 0.35-0.40/kWh, it will be possible to sell zero-rated power produced from some renewable resources for less than the price of grey. Greenpeace, however, suspects that Dutch energy companies are intent on keeping the green power price artificially high to increase their profits. The Green Energy initiative is intended both as a serious commercial venture and as a measure to prevent energy companies further hiking green power prices.

Greenpeace dismisses power company arguments that a price rise is necessary to maintain a balance between supply and demand. Renewables power is in short supply. But stimulating demand will stimulate production, says Van Egmond. Just one week after its launch, the Greenpeace tariff had attracted 2000 subscribers. "And this without any advertising," says Van Egmond.

Whether subscribers actually buy power from Greenpeace itself will depend on the reactions of the energy companies. "If the power companies raise prices we will purchase and sell our own green power -- a number of wind turbine owners have already said that they would rather deal with us than with the power companies. Alternatively, a third party might emerge who is prepared to act on our behalf and we would then recommend that our subscribers deal with them," says Van Egmond.

Where Greenpeace will buy its green power and how it will be certified are issues which still have to be decided. The organisation is committed to a strict equivalence policy: sales and purchases will be directly matched on a quarterly basis.