Eneco and Co-Op Energy’s Highland wind farm partnership provides consumer choice to Big Six providers

Zoisa Walton Enerco UK MDBy ZOISA WALTON

Choice is a good thing. As the lifeblood of free market economics, it underpins the principle of fair and affordable pricing for the consumer.

In energy utility markets, choice can also create capacity for ethically and environmentally sound yet still profitable business propositions. These measures are not mutually exclusive.

Equally vital, it promotes efficient resourcing for competitive suppliers while driving a healthy thirst for technical innovation that can be legitimately marketed as an improvement; a differentiator with visible and multiple positive impacts.

When effectively managed for communities and businesses large and small, such propositions increase customer engagement and trust. Virtuous circle complete; scalable sustainability secured.

Of course it’s not that simple in practice. It takes strategic focus and long, meaningful communication with communities if you want to establish onshore wind generation assets.

As leader of a proud market disruptor, I believe it’s a question of being lean but adequately resourced, adopting and deploying location-optimised technology as sensitively as possible to create workable financial gearing.

Wind power can be cheaper – we’ve proved it. But what we are working on is the cost down carrot coupled to consumer appetite. Better understanding of the full value chain, across consumer purchasing and performance demands, grid connectivity and regulatory obligation, is implicit.

Increasingly there are examples of successful headway in breaking the hitherto accepted status quo in availability of UK energy suppliers, a market dominated by the ‘Big Six’.  

Eneco UK is part of Eneco Group, the Dutch-headquartered sustainable energy generator. The UK business is one of a new breed. In Scotland we operate three wind farms in the Highlands and two in Aberdeenshire.

Based in Warwick, we have an additional office at Dochfour near Inverness, close to our Scottish generating locations and working as an integral contributor to local life. It isn’t a veneer of ‘localness’ or simply a logistics expedient.

I’m not being commercially partial when discussing how we are changing perceptions of emerging responsible, well-founded alternative renewable energy generators and suppliers. Happily, I’m able to contend Eneco UK offers customer-endorsed case studies that tick all of the above boxes. We can even apply a ‘unique in Scotland’ label.

I want to underline two examples, community and corporate, where we are making an obvious difference. I suggest both fulfil an urgent economic need and a customer-driven preference, where the option exists.

 

Case 1: truly competitive domestic tariffs from energy literally generated on people’s doorsteps.

 During the construction of our wind farms, we have regularly been asked by the local community: “When can I benefit from my local wind farm?”

Whether said with enthusiasm or yet-to-be-convinced tone (a minority stand) isn’t the point. There is an underlying pragmatism allied to dissatisfaction with the aforementioned status quo.

Highlands & Mearns Wind, a new energy tariff representing our first move to the retail market, is our answer.  Launched last month, it works like this:

  • We are partnering with Co-operative Energy (Co-op Energy); it is the consumer face as the supplier.
  • The electricity being supplied to the customers is sourced from their local Eneco wind farm; our assets at Lochluichart 11 miles north west of Dingwall, Moy near Inverness and Tullo and sister wind farm Twinshiels, near Laurencekirk.
  • Customers will get access to a 100% renewable electricity delivered at a fixed rate for a year, with no exit fees, a choice of payment options, dual fuel or electricity only, online management and even a UK call centre.
  • Unique in Scotland, it allows exclusivity in domestic supply to communities local to each wind farm.

To ensure renewable provenance, generation to and through the national grid is traceable using Eneco’s Renewable Electricity Guarantees of Origin (UK Government REGOs, registered against named asset owners), which are sold to Co-op Energy.

The link with Co-op Energy is a key pillar of our strategy to work with trusted commercial partners and local communities in delivering sustainable energy solutions.

We have more than 200MW capacity from our Scottish locations. Bigger business customers across the UK can also benefit.

 

Case 2: A 10 year deal with Mars, one of the world’s largest food companies.

 By tapping into the new, 20-turbine Moy Wind Farm, Mars UK will now run on carbon-neutral electricity, generating the equivalent of 100% of the electricity required to power all 12 Mars UK sites.

Mars has committed to buying electricity through Eneco UK for the next decade. Remaining generation will be supplied to the local community via the new energy tariff, Highlands & Mearns Wind.

Opened in May, 2016 after a 22-month build phase, the total power output from Moy’s 20 turbines is 60MW, enough for 34,000 typical homes. The wind farm will enable all Mars UK factories and offices to produce Mars’ best-loved brands using renewable electricity.

Community consultation is at the heart of the new era of viable alternative energy generation and supply.

By example, at Moy the joint company-community working group – set-up to oversee investment from an Eneco pledged benefit fund resulting from the wind farm output – will translate £4,500 per installed MW per annum into a total £6.75 million investment in local facilities across the 25 year asset lifetime.

Our vision of sustainable energy for all isn’t convenient marketing. There’s already plenty of resonance, backed by physical evidence.

 ZOISA WALTON is Managing Director of Eneco UK.

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