Dutch forge green link with Texas

Major Dutch utility NUON has taken a big step into the North American power retail market with a $53.5 million investment in Texas-based green power marketer Green Mountain Energy. Green Mountain, which earlier this year clinched an investment deal with BP Amoco, is a leading marketer to residential customers in the deregulated markets of California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. As such it occupies a key position in the progressively deregulating American power market estimated to be worth some $200 billion.

Distinguished by its focus on the Internet as a primary marketing medium, Green Mountain earlier this year concluded a deal with Lycos to promote its energy products over Lycos's extensive network. It is its expertise in this area which first attracted the Dutch utility, says NUON's Chief Growth Officer, Carel Kok.

NUON is already active in a number of overseas markets as a power producer, but the deal was the first to have been made based on considerations of marketing, says Kok. "It was a very conscious decision to look for an investment in North America," says Kok. "Not just because of the continuing liberalisation, but because as a retailer interested in selling energy and energy associated products, it is the world's premier retail market. From a corporate perspective it provides invaluable retailing experience which we can then transplant back to the Dutch and other markets." The deal secures NUON two of the nine seats on the Green Mountain management board.

In return NUON will be exporting its expertise to strengthen the day-to-day management of the company through regular staff secondments. It has also secured European rights to the Green Mountain brand and may market power under that name in the future.

BP and NUON chairs

The large investment will be phased over a number of years and will be used to develop new renewable generation facilities and fund the growth of the company which was launched in 1996. Annemarie Goedmakers, director of NUON's renewable energy division, has been appointed joint chair of the Green Mountain board along with BP Amoco's Tony Fountain.

"We are excited about this alliance with the green energy leader in the US and look forward to helping Green Mountain Energy show homeowners and businesses how their energy choices can make a difference," says Goedmakers. Green Mountain Energy recently moved its headquarters from Vermont to Austin, Texas.