New Flemish supplier Bolt relies on local green electricity
The new Flemish start-up and supplier Bolt wants consumers to buy green electricity directly from local producers. Brussels-based energy company targets 20.000 customers.
Only 6% of Flemish households are supplied with renewable energy from local production. In other cases, guarantees of origin are purchased from abroad to be able to speak of green electricity, CEO and co-founder Pieterjan Verhaeghen (30) notes. “We go against the flow and we guarantee that your electricity is produced in a truly green way, locally and at a fair price.”
Buy your electricity local
“Buy your green electricity directly from farmer Chris’ solar panels now.” With this sales argument, Bolt is entering the market in Flanders. Customers can choose from different projects on the website.
They can buy electricity from windmills in the port of Ghent, from the solar panels of a tennis club in Zelem, from a hydroelectric power station in the Meuse or a biomass digester in Zomergem. The customer always receives the specific certificate of origin of the electricity.
“46% of Flemish households have a contract for green electricity, so there is interest,” says Pieterjan Verhaeghen. “But only 6% of Flemish households are supplied with renewable energy from local production. We aim to make the energy market more transparent and to offer customers the opportunity to make a very conscious choice for direct purchase of local green electricity.”
Verhaeghen, an economist of education, founded Bolt with Rens Van Haute, a business engineer, and took the mustard from similar initiatives abroad. With a recent capital injection of 900.000 euros, the energy supplier Luminus acquired a majority interest in the start-up.
Currently, Bolt has signed contracts with 13 Belgian producers to supply 20.000 families. If demand turns out to be higher, Bolt’s market model means that it does not have the flexibility to buy additional electricity on the wholesale market. “It is possible to increase capacity quickly, but if it is very successful, candidates may end up in a queue,” says Verhaeghen.
According to Trends magazine, Bolt derives its income from the 5-euro-membership fee that consumers pay, which is comparable to the fixed costs at a traditional supplier.
The entrepreneur dreams that people who have solar panels and have excess energy can sell to each other. Once the smart meters are fully established in Flanders, this should become possible. Bolt, therefore, prefers not to call itself a supplier, but a facilitator or ‘matchmaker’, or even a sub-platform.
Weigh on the policy
Bolt has a license in its pocket from the Flemish energy regulator, VREG, but the intention is to quickly become active on the Walloon and Brussels market as well.
“We hope to become big so that we can weigh on the energy market and policy to a transition to more green electricity production,” says Verhaeghen. “If we want to make pricing dependent on the project from which the electricity originates in the long term, we will need to amend the regulations.”
Energy expert Joannes Laveyne of the Ghent University finds Bolt’s model attractive, although he points out on the site vrt.be that it doesn’t differ that much from that of energy cooperatives, like Wase Wind or Ecopower.
“What Bolt does can be a stimulus for the local market system. This is about the short-chain, something that many people attach importance to. The whole question is whether this will lead to additional investments in the production of green electricity in Belgium. That is possible, but it will have to be proven.”