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September 22, 2021

Investment Manager Nienke Rijpstra describes in this blog how StartGreen can help both developers and citizens' initiatives to set up a new energy project.

Involve citizens early
In the coming years, we will have to generate a great deal of solar and wind energy in the Netherlands in order to achieve the climate targets. The Climate Agreement aims for 50 percent citizen participation in the energy transition in order to create much-needed social support for solar and wind parks. StartGreen also believes it is important that citizens have a say at the start of a solar or wind project and that they can share in the return.

Divergent interests
The Netherlands currently has almost 500 energy cooperatives. The majority would like to participate in a solar or wind farm, if only to have a say in the design. Developers, in turn, are increasingly required by the municipality to involve citizens. However, not all developers are willing to share ownership and the professionalism of energy cooperatives varies widely. And municipalities do not always understand the implications of mandatory citizen participation.

Two sides
StartGreen can be the connecting link, partly from our role as manager of Energiefonds Overijssel. Together with the energy cooperatives, we will discuss the realization with the developers and the municipality. We think along with you about financing and structuring.

Our involvement works both ways: we help not only citizens, but also developers to meet their citizen participation obligation. They are obliged to relinquish part of the participation, so also part of the profit. It is understandable that they are reluctant to start the collaboration. It is nice when they enter into negotiations with a party that knows their business.

Development financing
In addition, energy cooperatives can apply for development financing from Energiefonds Overijssel. Such a cooperative has a great responsibility towards sometimes hundreds of members. In addition, it must take into account all kinds of legislation and guidelines, such as the AVG. With our loan, the cooperative can, for example, hire external parties who can provide professional support to the members in applying for subsidies and in discussions with the municipality. We also bring them into contact with other cooperatives, so that they can learn from each other.

Various financing options
Energiefonds Overijssel regularly finances solar energy projects. As a result, we know almost all energy cooperatives in Overijssel, of which we have now financed about 10 of them. Together with the Goed Veur Mekare cooperative, we are now working on realizing and operating a solar meadow with 20,456 panels on the Noordmanshoek in Wijhe.
We think flexibly with cooperatives about how we can finance a project. In some cases, Oneplanetcrowd citizen participation for developers, by raising funding from our crowd from individual investors. In addition to solar projects, they also finance windmills and other alternative energy sources.

More flexible than the bank
Banks generally find it exciting to finance energy cooperative projects precisely because they are not professional. Banks also often think in existing frameworks; we are more flexible in that regard. We have already worked with cooperatives so much that we know where the risks lie, so we dare to do that. In addition, banks often only start at 5 million, we finance from a million; Oneplanetcrowd from even lower amounts. We can also offer risk capital with which they can develop, there is no room for that at a bank.

Participation in construction
Incidentally, for energy cooperatives, participation is sometimes even more important than yield. For example, they want a solar park to have a lot of greenery around it. Preferably with a function, for example as a dog walking or sports park. That is why it is good that a cooperative can think along from the start. Unlike wind farms, there are no legal rules for solar farms. However, the municipality often only issues a construction permit if the plan provides for planting that deprives you of direct view. Then it is great that as a citizen you can walk your dog or do sports there.

Added value
StartGreen is so much more than a green financier in the energy transition. Our added value also lies in our knowledge and experience, which enable us to think along with energy cooperatives, municipalities and developers. By knowing all interests and thinking in terms of possibilities, StartGreen can help make citizen participation possible. For me, the challenge posed by citizen participation is the motivation to bring parties together and prove that it well can.

 

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