With the EU ambition to increase the share of renewable energy generation and consumption by 32% by 2030, there is more pressure to cooperate locally and regionally in order to roll-out sustainable alternatives such as onshore wind, solar, energy efficiency, and storage projects. Many stakeholders like developers, municipalities, landowners, suppliers, and local residents all play a part in the renewable energy transition.
How would you describe the partnership between Renewable Factory and Triodos Energy Transition Europe Fund?
Stef: The fund steps in at the end-stage development phase of the project. The moment we step in is the moment Renewable Factory is already developing projects, and the additional financing helps increase the speed to bring the projects to a ready-to-build phase. The ready-to-build phase requires arranging final permits and licenses, engineering, tendering, contracting, and finalising needed environmental studies. The fund stays in the project during the end-stage development, construction and early operation of the wind projects.
Bas: Currently Triodos Energy Transition Europe Fund is financing three of our wind projects – one to be built this year and two next year. There is a natural fit for us to work together. We have shared values and want to contribute to the energy transition by decreasing the carbon footprint of the energy mix. We involve landowners, the municipality and local residents in the earliest phases of the process. While the fund steps in at the end-development stage, they look at stakeholder management and how we manage that process and then bring in their own knowledge and experience.
Triodos Energy Transition Europe Fund also has a good network of relations which can help us advance our vision of long-term contribution to the renewable energy mix and sustainable generation. We are always looking for new opportunities to expand our portfolio in wind and solar, hydrogen as an alternative source of fuel, and in energy storage similar to the inspiring project, Giga Rhino.
Can you explain how you work with landowners and local residents?
Bas: If we aim to reach the 2030 goal of 32% renewable energy production, local stakeholder management is key in our line of work. Working with local stakeholders accelerates the project in the development phase and is essential for the long-term success of the project. For instance, we work with landowners to make land available for wind turbines or solar parks and in return, they get a stable secondary source of income. We enter into a cooperation agreement where we agree that we will be given the opportunity to exclusively develop the available land for sustainable energy builds. We also understand that wherever we go, the solar park we build, or the wind turbines can have a major impact on the communities in the surrounding area. Whenever we go into a new project, we immediately openly communicate about the project with the local residents and municipalities and continue that open line of communication. There’s a dialogue where both parties seek solutions with minimal impact to the environment and its surrounding area. For example, with Windpark Oude Maas, we were forced to widen an existing path through the forest in order to transport materials for the project. After extensive ecological research, we obtained the necessary permits and made agreements with the municipality and landowner to replant 2.3 hectares of new forest financed by the wind farm and carried out by the local landscaping company.
Stef: The environmental, social and governance (ESG) elements are very important to the fund. The fund invests in environmentally sound companies that accelerate the energy transition with the prospect of an attractive financial return combined with the opportunity for the investors to make a pro-active, measurable and lasting contribution to the reduction of CO2 emissions. What Renewable Factory has done with active stakeholder management, social and environmental involvement, and incorporating energy democracy into its strategy has expanded the scope of what we can do for renewable energy production.
Renewable Factory was founded in 2010 in the Netherlands and prior to that, the founders worked for more than 30 years in consulting on renewable energy projects. To date, the company focuses on its growing portfolio of renewable energy projects where they develop, finance, build, and operate mainly onshore wind parks as well as solar projects. A main part of their strategy and vision is to employ energy democracy by actively engaging stakeholders in dialogues in the development phase and working with the municipality to issue bonds and deployment of local subcontractors in the construction phase.
What is the main opportunity for not only a successful energy transition but also for stakeholder involvement in the upcoming years?
Bas: Renewable Factory is growing and specifically we’re looking at how to create opportunities from the transition away from fossil fuels, which are still dominating the energy sector, although diminishing year after year. One of the opportunities that can help quicken the pace of the renewable energy transition is to train workers coming from the fossil fuel industry in the world of renewable energy. During the tender and contract management phase, Renewable Factory hires through a consultancy firm, workers in the oil and gas industry. Their training and high-quality standards coupled with the backing of a knowledgeable team in wind and solar, help to broaden the experience on the project. We need their skills and knowledge of contracting, engineering, project management and problem solving to move ahead.
This transition doesn’t have to lead to a loss of land, jobs, and so on. It can lead to further job creation and an acceleration of partnership that gets us further towards our 2030 climate goals and beyond.
Explore our Energy and Climate impact report ‘Accelerating the energy transition’ to find out more about our role as impact investor. The report presents our 2020 results in a context of numbers and stories and showcases our mission to make money work for positive change.