Green energy from white sugar

Biogas from sugar beet tops heats Rabobank offices

Rabobank aims to use exclusively green energy by 2028. It has already been using 100% green electricity for several years. Rabobank is now working in partnership with Suiker Unie to procure biogas. 'It’s wonderful to see two Dutch cooperatives embracing their responsibility together.'

'Sustainable enterprise dovetails with our organisation’s core values,' says Iddo Versantvoort, who is a Senior Procurement Officer at Rabobank. 'This means that, in addition to offering products such as sustainable investments, it’s also important that our business operations are sustainable. Rabobank has been completely climate neutral since 2007. We also began greening our energy consumption in 2004.'

Going green

Versantvoort explains that the bank follows the principles of Trias Energetica in its efforts to make its energy consumption more sustainable. This means it minimises energy consumption by combatting waste, uses energy from sustainable sources and compensates for energy generated from fossil fuels. 'We started greening our electricity ten years ago by using 100% wind energy,' says Versantvoort. 'We also examined our gas consumption around five years ago. Unlike electricity, gas is still a non-regulated market. Sustainably generated electricity can be supplied to the grid without any impediments. In contrast, green gas must first be of the right quality. There are only a couple of players in the market that can supply that gas.'

Sugar beet tops

One of those companies is Suiker Unie. Production Director Paul Mesters explains that the company has three fermentation plants at locations in the Netherlands and Germany. 'We have a great deal in common with Rabobank. To start with, we’re both cooperatives. Plus we have shared values when it comes to our role in society. Sustainable business operations are a top priority for us. We operate as circularly as possible. When the sugar beets are washed, we capture the sand and the clay and return them to the land. The beet pulp is used as feed in livestock farming. We also ferment the sugar beet tops and beet leaves in our special fermentation plants. As a result we can make green gas from these by-products. With annual production of 25 million cubic metres, we are now the Netherlands’ largest green gas producer. We already have quite a few customers for our gas, including Rabobank. It’s wonderful to see two Dutch cooperatives embracing their responsibility together.'

Step by step

Rabobank consumes approximately 7 million cubic metres of gas a year. Versantvoort: 'This is divided across the more than 100 local Rabobanks and their branch offices across the country, the centralised buildings in Utrecht and Eindhoven and our data centres in Best and Boxtel. This all combines to make us one of the Netherlands’ large consumers. The expectation is that one quarter of our gas consumption will be sustainable in 2017. We want to see to this percentage grow each year by steps of five percent. This means we will follow the growth of the green gas market, without disrupting it as a large consumer. We currently procure 1 million cubic metres of gas from Suiker Unie. We enter into an agreement each year specifying the increase in our procurement. This is how we gradually keep moving closer to our goal of using exclusively green energy by 2028. I think it is wonderful that we also involve our customers in this process – such as the 9,000 farmers who are members of the Suiker Unie cooperative, many of whom are Rabobank customers.'

Four wind turbines

'Greening is something you have to do in phases,' says Mesters of Suiker Unie in agreement. 'So it is smart and beneficial that Rabobank is taking this approach. We’ve also been working for years on taking further steps forward in the field of greening. Our own trucks now run on green gas. And we recently had four wind turbines installed on our grounds. Greening is a long-term endeavour; the recoup period is naturally longer. But we stand behind it 100%, as does Rabobank. It has now become an important part of our business case: our customers can see that we make the greenest sugar.'

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