Benefiting from solar power without investing

Ondernemers profiteren van zonnepanelen

Putting solar on big roofs is a superior way to generate renewable energy, and ABN AMRO investor helps entrepreneurs lock in the rewards in an easy way. Businesses are queuing up, as no capital spend is required.

There’s no denying the benefits of solar power, but the requisite sizeable investment in solar panels and lengthy pay-back period make it a less obvious spend for many businesses. Investor Maas Capital – a subsidiary of ABN AMRO – teamed up with solar project developer SolarAccess to devise a plan. Entirely covering businesses’ roofs with solar panels, the joint venture is responsible for placement and maintenance while the recipients pay for the use of the solar panels instead of owning them. Businesses pay a little below the market rate for solar energy, with the actual discount varying per company and depending on their own power consumption, roof size and location.

No investment required

In 2013 Heineken was the first company to join the scheme, which has since become attractive to more companies thanks to a subsidy from the Dutch government. Ben Kras of Kras Recycling in the Dutch town of Volendam was among those who signed the letter of intent, seeing this as a next step in his business’s sustainability drive: “We’ll be energy-neutral once these solar panels on top of our four company buildings are hooked up.” Earlier, Kras had got his company on LED lighting and an electricity-driven vehicle fleet. He feels the scheme is “too good to pass up” and notes that “we’d considered investing in solar panels ourselves at some point but decided not to for competitive reasons, as their long pay-back period was too uncertain.” The Maas Capital/Solar Access deal runs for 16 years. As Kras says: “By which time I’ll own the panels, which should theoretically last another decade.”

Low-cost

In principle, any kind of business can access the subsidy offered by the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs for generating and supplying solar power. The attraction of the deal is that the joint venture takes care of the subsidy application, as well as installing and maintaining the solar panels. In this way, the bank aims to help its clients make a contribution to a more sustainable world. And the businesses themselves are looking at lower energy bills as they generate their own power. Companies boasting big roofs with a minimum surface area of 5,000 square metres are eligible.

Large building

For Louis Sciarli, Managing Director of waste processing company Vliko, the scheme came at just the right time. Last year, Vliko brought a range of business units together in a single commercial building in Zoeterwoude in the Netherlands. Previous capital spending on LED lighting and electric forklift trucks had already cut their energy bill, and solar panels should help meet their full annual energy requirement of around 250,000 kWh once these are up and running. Sciarli enthuses: “We’ll be able to run fully energy-neutral operations. We aim to be sustainability leaders and there really wasn’t a reason not to do it, given the costs.”

Sustainable bread bags

Volendam-based family business Kivo Plastic Packaging feels the scheme fits in with its own mission to make its key product – the plastic bread bag – as sustainable as possible. Director-owner Robert Kwakman comments: “Flexible plastic gets a bad rap in the market and we jump at any opportunity to make our products more sustainable. Solar panels should facilitate energy-neutral production of our bread bags over time.” Kwakman took a long, hard look at the costs and terms & conditions before he bit the bullet: “Costs per kWh are below market rates – that’s essential in our line of work as competition is fierce.” After signing the letter of intent, the entrepreneur talked his foil supplier and distributor into joining the scheme as well, by stressing its environmental importance, price and terms & conditions – i.e. it’s not a capital spend and doesn’t get recognised in the balance sheet. “That’s how, little by little, we’re making our supply chain more sustainable.”