What challenge was the inspiration for your project?
In early 2013 the Dutch municipalities of Geldermalsen and Neerijnen came up with a joint vision on how to contribute to the development of wind farms within their municipal boundaries, with civic participation as a key condition.
We have been active as an energy cooperative for some time and have taken up the gauntlet thrown down by the municipalities and started working actively on civic participation. Of course, the enormous climate challenge that we all face was another reason to step in. We felt responsible for the success of the project.
In what way is your approach innovative?
Innovation is at the heart of our approach. As a cooperative, we wanted to be a co-owner of the wind turbine project, so we could safeguard both the control and the financial return for participants. That had never been done before in this way.
Initially we acquired 25% ownership, which was later extended to 50%. Another new aspect was that as a cooperative we are fully responsible for communication with the local community and politicians; and that allows us to control our image, and hence the support for the wind turbine project.
What impact has Triodos Bank had on your organisation?
Triodos Bank finances 90% of the investment, so their impact is substantial.
What impact has your business had on the sector you work in?
This project makes us the third largest wind cooperative (in terms of generating capacity) in The Netherlands. Betuwewind is a source of inspiration for other energy cooperatives. The industry often sees us as an example of how things can be done differently.
And we have played an active role in the formation of the Dutch Climate Agreement, which states that 50% of new renewable land-based production will be owned by the local community. Our knowledge has contributed to substantiating this ambition.
What impact has your business had on the community?
From the second year of production, Betuwewind will set aside approximately EUR 700,000 per year to contribute to the regional energy transition. For example, we will invest in new local sustainability projects in our community.
How does Triodos Bank share your vision?
Triodos Bank is an excellent match for us. As a sustainable bank, they support bottom-up initiatives in particular, undertaken by people who feel connected with the project. Moreover, it is a commercially healthy project. The profit flows back to the community and not to just a few shareholders. Cooperative members ‘only’ receive a good return on their investment, which also fits seamlessly into Triodos Bank’s vision.