Green power, red faces

Amsterdam city council’s plan to sell of its shares in Nuon and set up a new energy company beggar belief, writes Robin Pascoe

Dutch energy company Nuon – which now wants to sell itself to Sweden’s Vattenfall – is 100% owned by Dutch local authorities, including the city of Amsterdam.
Nuon likes to profile itself as environment-friendly, as does its potential new owner Vattenfall.
‘Of the major energy companies in Europe, Vattenfall’s portfolio now includes the highest percentage of green sources of energy and the firm aims to expand on that percentage in the future,’ gushed environment minister Jacqueline Cramer on her ministry’s website.
And as Nuon says on its own website, it aims to ‘lead the way in reducing CO2 emissions’.
So why then is Amsterdam planning to sell its 9% stake in something which is already so green and then use the cash to set up a rival?
Council executive Marijke Vos says Nuon is just too big to bother with Amsterdam’s little schemes. She envisages wind turbines on top of office blocks and solar panels on every roof.
Nuon, of course, looks at the bigger picture. Its argument for selling itself to the Swedish government is that it needs a stronger partner to survive in the European energy market. But as the owner of a 9% stake, surely the city could put a little pressure on Nuon to look at local level as well.
Many years ago Amsterdam sold the city’s cable network A2000 to a company which eventually became known as UPC. The city is now part of a project to set up a rival cable network but it took years to win permission from the government to get involved in such a commercial operation.
Rather than go down that road again, why not make it a building requirement that all new homes, offices, whatever have solar panels on the roof? The building sector (crying out for work thanks to the recession) should be happy to install them. And give proper subsidies to home owners to install turbines and solar panels as well.
The city will soon have €800m to play with. That should just about cover the cost.

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