The Airbnb for energy

By directly connecting green power producers with consumers, electricity provider Vandebron offers them both a better deal.

Aart van Veller (Photo: Roy Borghouts)

Economist Aart van Veller, one of the initiators of Vandebron (‘from the source’), was the speaker in the lecture series Meet the Energy Leaders, organised by the Delft Energy Initiative.

Three years ago, he and two friends started a new initiative in the power market. Their clients can choose a local power producer (wind or solar energy) from who they want to buy their electricity. The producers are listed and portrayed on the website. Consumers, presently about 105 thousand, pay a fixed membership fee.

Fixed tariff

“Other energy providers charge a percentage of the energy you use,” Van Veller explained. “So reducing your energy use is not in their interest. We want you to reduce energy consumption, so we don’t charge customers for the energy but the connection.”

By directly connecting producers and consumers, Vandebron has effectively cut out the middleman (large power companies), as Airbnb has done with tourist accommodations.

Of course, use and production are seldom in balance. Vandebron, therefore, matches production and demand on a yearly average. Excesses or shortages are balanced by delivering power to the grid or drawing from it.

Energy transition

Ultimately, Vandebron wants to accelerate the transition to sustainable energy and to reduce dependence on fossil or nuclear (backup) power.

Starting later this year, Vandebron will introduce ‘smart charging’ for electric vehicles. By enabling this option, electric car owners authorise the power company to decide when to charge the batteries. ‘Smart charging’ provides Vandebron with storage capacity which will help, they think, to reduce the imbalance between sustainable power production and user consumption. It will also save the customer hundreds of euro’s, said Van Veller.

Science editor Jos Wassink

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