Solar Energy Growth Explodes Through Local Initiatives

According to Experts, 'grassroots movement' is unstoppable in the Netherlands

EINDHOVEN – The growth of solar energy in the Netherlands is unstoppable. Thanks to hundreds of local initiatives striving for both sustainability as well as independence, the market is growing from the grassroots level, increasing as much as 250 percent in 2012. According to experts, it is expected that the number of solar panels and solar energy will more than double in the coming years.

Last year in the Netherlands 145 megawatts of new solar panels were installed. That is 3.5 times more power than generated in 2011. Most panels are purchased through the joint initiatives of the general public.

"In the Netherlands there are currently more than 300 local energy cooperatives. This is an indication of its popularity. Netherlands is truly a country where growth takes place at grassroots level. I call that the power of the people," says Ren Moerman. He is the director of business development at Solar Insurance & Finance, and Chairman of CALorie in Northern Holland. This local public initiative recently opened its first solar power plant with 112 panels, and plan to put another two to four solar powered plants into operation before the end of the year. "We have been in existence since 2010 and are actually an established club. We have already realized several projects, while new cooperatives will come come to fruition next year. Therefore I expect that solar energy in the Netherlands will more than double in the coming years, purely through the power of growing from grassroots level, "said Moerman.

This opinion of future development is shared by Dr. Frans Stokman, professor of sociology at the University of Groningen and president of Grunneger Power, the local energy cooperative. "Despite the limitations of net metering and the difficulties of investing in solar energy at other locations besides your own roof, we envisage tremendous potential for growth. This is evidenced by cooperatives such as Grunneger Power that show people that it is cost effective and cheaper than electricity from the power company," says the professor.

Grunneger Power constructs a roof fitted with solar panels in Groningen every two days. "Worldwide, you see the number of solar panels growing at an amazing rate. Every year it exceeds the previous year. In the Netherlands, people on the same street collaborate and help each other to purchase solar panels. That is the social impact that we have always envisaged and that is now becoming a reality," says Stokman.

Both will speak at The Solar Future: NL '13 conference in Eindhoven on the 23rd of May, along with celebrities such as visionary Jeremy Rifkin, activist Danny Kennedy, and the Netherlands' own solar energy guru, Professor Wim Sinke.

Worldwide growth of the number of solar energy systems are in the double digits. In Europe, the market is expected to double in 2016 compared to this year, according to EPIA, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association.

In the Netherlands, a kilowatt-hour of solar power now costs about 16 cents. Power from a power outlet costs on average of 21 cents. Solar panels will pay for themselves in ten years, while they last for at least twenty years. "In other words, they will deliver ten years of free electricity," says Edwin Koot of Solarplaza, the organizers of the conference. He has several theories as to why the Netherlands is experiencing such tremendous growth in this industry. "On the one hand people want to contribute to a sustainable green energy. On the other hand, they want to be independent of large organizations such as banks and energy companies. All this has the hallmark of a booming grassroots movement," says Koot.

According to Koot, the fact that the EU is currently threatening to levy temporary import duties on solar panels from China, will not stop this process. Koot: "In America, the market continued to grow in 2012, despite similar import levies".

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