A family business in the fight against climate change. Father and sons merged their ideals for a sustainable future into a business plan and founded ENIE.NL. During the Energy VentureClass last Thursday, brothers Milan and Patrick van der Meulen talked about how ideals can become a business model and materialize into a bright, sustainable future for the company and its customers.
The roots of Enie.nl can be traced back to Al Gore’s famous documentary about climate change, An Inconvenient Truth, released a decade ago. Seeing it left a permanent mark and the will to do something. And just 2 years ago, when their company was just getting out of the startup phase, the two brothers decided to write a letter to Al Gore and were invited to join his course on climate change in Miami, Florida.
“We treat our atmosphere like an open sewer”, Milan van der Meulen says. “The current emissions are equal to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima strength nuclear bombs, every day.” Milan shows a series of photos and facts to illustrate how the effect of manmade global warming is turbo-charging our weather to the point where it is now spinning off one record extreme event after another.
“Just two weeks ago, three hurricanes right after another, two of which were category 5, the highest category possible”, Milan continues. “Massive drought, like in Syria, where 60% of fertile land turned into desert between 2006 and 2010. Or sudden torrential rains, causing flash floods, like we experienced first hand when we were in Miami. Climate change is very real, and it is already happening.”
But not all is lost. Despite the sceptics, or the slow geopolitical progress, Patrick explains we’ve already passed a more positive tipping point: “Green energy is now cheaper than fossil fuel, and more efficient and widely used than anyone predicted 10 years ago.” In other words, green energy is becoming more economically viable than its fossil counterpart and more and more countries and companies are hopping on the bandwagon.
“Our country is still behind in the energy transition though, and the big challenge: how do you get 7 million Dutch households to switch to green energy? Our company focuses on solar power, and initially we were just selling solar panels. One of the obstacles though, is that solar panels don’t come cheap. Around 5000 euros is a pretty big investment for most families.”
The big shift
“But we had a breakthrough idea”, Patrick continues. “Instead of only selling solar panels, we decided to become an energy company, and this month, we got the official certificate. Our big idea: one energy bill, for solar energy, green energy and gas. Customers get the solar panels for free and only pay a fee for the energy they generate, which in any case will be lower than their current energy bill.”
But doesn’t that mean Enie will have to put up a big sum up front, considering solar panels don’t come cheap? “True”, Milan says. “But we’ve set up a special investment fund for that, so we can already back it up with our investments and we will eventually make money by charging the fee for what households generate.”