Europe’s appetite for renewables is growing rapidly, and countries including Germany, Scotland and Denmark have already established themselves as leaders in renewable energy generation. However, the voluntary market for commercial and industrial participation has, as a whole, been slower to develop compared to the more aggressive US, Indian and Mexican markets.
In some countries, ‘green’ tariffs are provided and European Guarantees of Origin (GOs) or Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) are available for purchase across the region. On the rise are offsite Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), in which commercial entities contract directly with developers on projects. To date, it has been more expensive to execute a PPA in Europe, and so only a handful of multinational corporations — such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft — have done so. However, as technology costs continue to fall and the market conditions for PPAs in Europe become more favorable, more markets — including Poland, the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium — are beginning to embrace the idea of offsite contracts.
In the midst of this transition, global energy management and automation specialist Schneider Electric has extended its NEO Network to Europe. We spoke with John Hoekstra, VP of Sustainability & Cleantech Services at Schneider Electric, to learn more about the program and how it will help shape the future of the European renewables market.
Last fall, Schneider Electric introduced NEO Network to the European market. What made this the ideal time to do so?
John Hoekstra**:** More and more corporations have global ambitions for renewables and other clean technology applications. We recognized that a gap existed in the market: There were few means for companies to access the information they needed to make decisions on renewable energy purchasing.
In our broader sustainability and cleantech advisory services, much of our work focuses on educating and enabling our clients to execute on renewable-energy and energy-efficiency transactions. We realized that we had an opportunity to create a resource that would help our clients work in a more scalable way; from that inspiration, we created NEO Network.
NEO Network is a collaborative, educational, virtual environment and community where multinational renewable energy and cleantech buyers can learn about the myriad of global clean energy opportunities and solutions available to them today and into the future. Given the growth of interest in voluntary renewable energy purchasing in Europe, it was important for us to make NEO Network available to this growing audience now.
What value does Schneider Electric endeavor to bring to European businesses through NEO Network?
JH**:** There is growing complexity in renewable energy and cleantech. Changing regulations and incentive structures, developing and emergent technologies, growth in existing and new markets, and other new energy opportunities make it difficult for an energy or sustainability manager to develop, manage and maintain a global renewable energy strategy. The purpose of NEO Network is to reduce this complexity and provide easy access to education, leading practices, projects and technologies; and a community of buyers, sellers and experts on clean energy. We’ve already seen tremendous value in the U.S. where NEO Network first launched. More than 50 multinational companies and over 10 developers and solution providers have joined the U.S. network and are actively leveraging NEO Network to increase their understanding of this dynamic and rapidly shifting industry.
What are some of the key benefits and who stands to benefit most?
JH**:** NEO Network strives to meet buyers where they are, so a company that is just starting on their renewable energy journey will find resources, and so will the most sophisticated buyer. Membership is curated by the Schneider Electric team, so each member receives a unique experience based on their needs and goals.
Key NEO Network benefits for buyers include:
- Access to select, detailed intelligence on more than 50 renewable energy markets globally
- Monthly webinars on a variety of relevant topics, featuring market experts and client case studies
- Participation in live events, including Schneider Electric’s Perspectives Summits and NEO Network Conclaves
- Exclusive purchasing and partnership opportunities made available only inside NEO Network by member companies
- Ability to engage directly with other purchasers and project/product developers to reduce market noise
- Opportunities to engage the broader suite of renewable energy advisory services available from Schneider Electric
Renewable energy project developers and cleantech product and service providers will also find a home in NEO Network. Key benefits for these NEO Network members include:
- Inclusion in Schneider Electric’s unique developer Request for Information process, which enables developers to position their projects for consideration in competed global processes and receive market intelligence from the full RFI process
- Opportunities to share project and product information directly with purchasing companies
- Participation in online and live events such as webinars and Schneider Electric’s Perspectives Summits and NEO Network Conclaves
- Access to the broader suite of Schneider Electric developer services, including training, market intelligence support, corporate buying trends insights and communications support
What are some of the European market challenges that NEO Network could help solve?
JH**:** We’ve heard repeatedly that European buyers lack information and education at a time when they are hungry for it. NEO Network provides a direct solution to this problem, as it allows member companies to have a single point of entry to the latest in market intelligence, news, and project/product availability.
NEO Network also helps to address market complexity, which will only continue to grow as global clean energy markets continue to advance and expand. NEO Network acts as a news source, a wiki, a community, and a marketplace all in one.
Are there challenges you foresee in entering this new market? What lessons have you learned during the US launch that Schneider Electric can apply in Europe?
JH**:** The biggest challenge is making European buyers and sellers aware that a resource like NEO Network exists, and we’re grateful to Sustainable Brands for helping us to get the word out.
The European market also presents an additional challenge that we have not faced in the US —it is a group of countries, rather than a single country, and buyers in each of these countries have their own unique needs for both local and global sourcing. However, NEO Network, and our broader suite of renewable energy and cleantech advisory services, provides support to buyers with energy load all over the world, so we are confident that this challenge is manageable, particularly given our established Energy & Sustainability Services group already active in Europe.
Overall, we see NEO Network bringing new resources to a market that is hungry for them, and we’re excited to begin.
To learn more about NEO Network, or to request a demonstration, visit www.neonetworkexchange.com.
For information about how to participate in Schneider Electric’s European developer RFI, please contact [email protected].