Good initiators are everywhere, and also in my local village. Last year I met Theo Land, a man full of ideas, contemplating a local energy cooperative. How to increase locally produced energy, and become less dependent on the big energy companies? Now his movement is growing fast, and I myself have joined as a volunteer in the communications working group.

 

It’s good sometimes not to wait until you’re hired to give advice, to be part of the movement yourself. I support the idea of bringing energy supply back to the local scale as much as possible, allowing people the opportunity to influence their energy economy.

The Dutch market for energy supply is an open one, which means that companies can compete for customers with contracts and service packages. And that’s what they do. They spend huge amounts of money on all kinds of marketing, to lure clients from competitors. As a consumer, I get sick and tired of all those phone calls I did not ask for, telling me I’m paying too much for my energy bill.

 

More importantly, the Western world has become an energy junkie, addicted to oil and gas, with which we are polluting our own nest. What would happen if all investment in exploiting yet other hard-to-exploit oil and gas fields were diverted to research on renewable energy sources?

These thoughts can make me angry, but also sad because there is so little one can do on a personal level. What am I doing about it anyway? I live in a big old house that costs a lot of energy to heat, and my car also consumes too much.

 

Look at me as both a civilian and a consumer; two people in one body.

This local initiative offers new hope. We can intervene at our own level. As a cooperative, it’s possible to buy energy from the national energy market and sell it to members. It also creates opportunities to launch locally produced energy projects: solar power, biogas, heat exchangers and so on. By joining forces you can do things that are beyond the reach of individual households.

local energyOn June 15th the municipal government organised a big event on sustainability. The responsible alderman announced new measures such as changing all vehicles in the municipality into electric ones, and expressed his full support to all good initiatives of villagers. There were workshops and a market at which entrepreneurs in sustainable technology presented their products.

Our cooperative was given the opportunity to conduct a workshop for anyone interested. The room was more than full! I led the group discussion and asked the audience why they were so keen. Interesting answers were given:

-    Having control over their own energy choices
-    The possibility of influencing change on a greater scale
-    Independence from big companies
-    Knowing exactly who to approach
-    Easier to get things done
-    Creating more opportunities by doing it together
-    Transparency (in both source and pricing)
-    A nonprofit approach

Nobody mentioned the possibility that it could also be cheaper. This was not an important factor for this conscientious audience.

local engergy

Meanwhile the cooperative has become legally established, with around twenty five active volunteers. We hope to start with a trial of the first contracts this fall. Simultaneously a national association has also been established, servicing all local energy cooperatives in the country, and acting as middleman at the national energy market.

For me it feels good to be involved. It helps to reduce the gap between my civilian and consumer selves. I have also put my house up for sale, and have ordered a hybrid car.