Towards sustainable energy solutions

For the most part, scientists agree that our brown energy consumption is not only nearing the limits of its available resources, but also a major factor in the planet’s disastrous climate change. Worldwide, governments are scrambling to reach agreements on emissions and pass laws that will curb our old habits and turn us towards more sustainable solutions. But for many, these official goals still seem too far off – if not too little, too late. The problem is, people don’t always know how to effect change and contribute by themselves. Thankfully, there are innovative companies like Vandebron to help democratise the process.

Helping people make informed choices

Vandebron co-founder Aart van Veller was 17 when he read The Limits to Growth, and 21 when he took an eye-opening trip to the Arctic region. “As soon as you really see the evidence of what is going on, you have to start working on it and invest your time and money,” he says. Van Veller and his two business partners, Remco Wilcke and Matthijs Guichelaar, share the same vision, understanding early on that the way to bypass the sluggish official channels was to put the choice directly into people’s hands. In April 2014, the trio launched Vandebron (literally, ‘from the source’), a platform that functions as a marketplace for renewable energy, connecting these independent energy producers directly to the consumers. “We empower them to decide exactly what type of energy they want to buy,” says Van Veller – and indeed, Vandebron’s website is entirely designed to help customers make informed decisions.

Solid business case

Vandebron’s producers vary from wind-farm cooperatives to farmers with biogas installations that mitigate the carbon and methane emissions from manure; but the company even works with citizens who have outfitted their homes with solar panels and are producing more than they consume. Vandebron buys that excess energy – which gets put back into the grid anyway – and everyone benefits: the end-user saves on their bill while doing their part for the environment, and the producers make money too. That last part is vitally important as it solidifies the business case for renewable energy, even without the incentive of subsidies.

Customer satisfaction

As of today, Vandebron counts 100 suppliers and 100,000 customers all over the country, and a team of 100 young employees whose motivation and innovative spirit makes Van Veller proud. With good reason: Consumentenbond, the leading consumer organisation in the Netherlands, has awarded Vandebron with the prize of best energy company in the country, including in customer service and satisfaction. “We are a young company, but we’re not a startup anymore. This prize meant a lot to us because it gives us authority in the field of energy. It shows that consumers can trust us.”

An important choice

What flourishing initiatives like Vandebron show is not only that sustainability is an important choice for customers, but also that the cost of green energy is decreasing, and that the return on investment in solar panels can actually turn out very profitable, even at citizen level. Empowering people to make a difference by giving them the tools and infrastructure to follow their forward-thinking values on an individual basis benefits everyone in the end: the consumers, the producers and, in the long run, the planet.