Green, greener, greenest

VOF Dogterom in Oude-Tonge is one of the largest bulb growers on the delta island of Goeree-Overflakkee in South Holland. Paul Dogterom runs the company together with his brother. Late in 2010, Paul got a phone call from his primary banker, Rabobank, asking whether his company was interested in taking part in a pilot project offering energy savings and the generation of sustainable energy. This would, on balance, enable them to save money. It sounded promising. After all, it seemed like killing two birds with one stone: doing sustainable business and earning money as a result.

Energy Region is accelerating the increase in businesses' sustainability

‘We're working pretty much on an ongoing basis on making our operations more sustainable and seeing whether we've left any ground uncovered in terms of our business activities,’ says Paul Dogterom. ‘That's why taking part in this project seemed like a good idea.’ The Energy Region (Energieke Regio) project brings together local parties to help businesses operate in a more sustainable way. It involves companies being assessed by experts to see if any gains can be made from modifications to installations, lighting, control technology, construction costs, energy contracts and tax arrangements.

Time for coffee

‘It led to a number of quite surprising results, things you tend to overlook yourself,’ says Dogterom. He brings up the example of the coffee machine in the company canteen. ‘That machine is running all week long, including at the weekend, when no one is using it. The solution is simple: put a timer on it. Now, it switches off at 5:00 p.m. and switches back on at 7:00 a.m. The initial investment involved has paid for itself within the first month and it's now delivering significant savings.’ Another example is lighting. ‘Before, it would sometimes happen that the lights were on all day in a room no one was using. Now, we've installed a motion sensor in most places, so that the light is automatically turned off when no one's there.’

Generating energy for yourself

In addition to these kinds of relatively small changes, Energy Region also provided advice about investments with a much larger potential impact: generating green energy for yourself. Two of Dogterom's premises now have solar panels on the roof. Dogterom: ‘The electricity we generate in this way is for our energy supplier. We produce green energy for the grid and are paid for doing this. The sum we receive is offset against the electricity we purchase from our supplier. On balance, that results in financial gains for us.’

Rabobank is asking customers to participate

Like the customer, Rabobank too is killing two birds with one stone. Customers benefit financially and the project contributes to improved sustainability – one of the bank's key priorities. Rabobank is the driving force within the project. It is asking businesses from its network that have a positive attitude towards sustainability to take part. ‘For every project we determine whether we will bear the project costs, or whether we can make arrangements for co-financing with local government agencies or other funds,’ says Jan Verhage from Rabobank Goeree-Overflakkee. ‘In addition, we are facilitating events and meetings related to the Energy Region initiative.’

‘On balance, it results in financial gains for us.’

Paul Dogterom

From one to a hundred

More than forty businesses and institutions have become more sustainable with the help of Energy Region so far. Together, they spent approximately €3 million on energy-saving measures including insulation, energy generation and climate control. Verhage: ‘The plan is for other regions to follow our lead. They will establish their own Energy Region organisation, supported by the central core team of the Energy Region Foundation, in close cooperation with local government agencies, business associations and local Rabobanks. The objective is to have a hundred Energy Regions by 2020.’

How does Energy Region work?

Locally-based, independent advisors take measurements at every participating company, giving them an insight into their energy consumption patterns. They pay attention to a range of things, including lighting, invisible energy use (standby consumption) and the use of solar panels. The Energy Region advisors also look at the pay-back period and the estimated costs of making the change. Their advice includes legal and financial tips, such as the possibility of applying for a government energy subsidy. Local businesses are responsible for the implementation, under the motto ‘local for local’. On average, participants can recoup their investments in 2 to 4.5 years.

One for all and all for one

The parties that are involved in Energy Region are the Casa Ratsma architecture firm (the original initiator of the project), the Energy Region Foundation (Stichting Energieke Regio), the municipality of Goeree-Overflakkee, local businesses, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and Rabobank Goeree-Overflakkee.

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