Fossil Free campaigners challenge Shell & Total in billion euro bid energy supply company
Civilian’s movement Den Haag Fossielvrij (The Hague Fossil Free) has announced a plan to buy energy utility company Eneco to prevent its acquisition by fossil fuel giants Shell and Total, and to help deliver a fast and fair transition to 100% sustainable heating in The Hague. Eneco is one of the biggest green energy suppliers in The Netherlands selling electricity and gas to about 2.8 million customers across the country. The total international number of customers is about 6 million. Eneco is currently owned by 53 Dutch municipalities, but is in the process of being sold off to the highest bidder.
Den Haag Fossielvrij announced their move to buy Eneco to owners Citigroup just before the deadline on March 3rd, at which time the only known parties to have expressed interest in purchasing the energy supplier were multinational fossil fuel firms. By securing ownership of Eneco Den Haag Fossielvrij would be able to guarantee affordable heating from local sustainable sources. The group of campaigners, part of an international grassroots movement, is taking this bold action to prevent a monopoly that will boost investment in dangerous fossil fuel heat from the industrial chemical harbour area of Botlek and charge civilians a premium price for fossil heating.
Den Haag Fossielvrij has started a crowdfunding action to cover the costs to make a serious offer on Eneco worth approximate € 3-4 billion. The group is reaching out to pension funds as partners in this venture – particularly those seeking green investments at considerable scale.
Spokesperson of Den Haag Fossielvrij Joeri Oudshoorn says, “the main interest of fossil multinationals in Eneco boils down to the fact that it will give them a heat monopoly. They want to connect households in The Hague by means of an expensive pipeline to fossil heat from oil refineries in the port of Rotterdam. The “Botlekpipe” – connecting the oil refinery businesses in the Rotterdam harbor with The Hague – contradicts the Paris Climate Agreement and the ambition of the city of The Hague to be climate neutral in 2030.”
Den Haag Fossielvrij is taking this ambitious step because there are no criteria in the country’s new ‘heat-law’ to ensure the sustainability of heat networks. This heat-law allows network companies to enter into a long-lasting contract for fossil heat, locking The Netherlands into a reliance on fossil fuels for decades to come. As owner of the district heating network Den Haag Fossielvrij would guarantee the sustainability of the network. Oudshoorn explains, “we want an open and affordable network on which new local non-fossil heat sources can connect with priority. Local geothermal companies, but also households and local companies can sell their surplus heat into our heat network. Just like people with solar panels have been doing with their surplus electricity.”
Buying the conglomerate Eneco is the next step for the growing civil society movement Den Haag Fossielvrij. Den Haag Fossielvrij’s coordinator Femke Sleegers says, “this is part of a worldwide rising trend of civilians who become more and more impatient with government inaction. Our representatives still let their relationship with the fossil fuel industry prevail and come up with false solutions that exacerbate the climate problem. If our politicians don’t take the steps needed, we will.”
Liset Meddens, Fossielvrij Netherlands director, says, “we will not be pushed aside. It is of the utmost importance that we won’t be locked into fossil heat networks which only benefit the fossil industry. This step shows citizens taking the lead in guaranteeing a fair and sustainable energy supply. Only in this way we can break the power of fossil fuel multinationals and actually keep our eyes on achieving the climate goals set in Paris.”