Solar power, self-generated eco-friendly electricity, has gone from being a financial flop to booming business in the Netherlands, virtually overnight. It has made the transition from an environmentalist hobby to a golden opportunity for the discerning business mind. Years of subsidy failed to entice the Dutch to enter the world of solar power, but in the last six months the number of newly installed solar panels has multiplied by ten.
The secret behind this sudden success is a neat example of Dutch business savvy: “buy in bulk and negotiate a hefty discount”. That’s exactly what Marjan Minnesma of Urgenda did last December when the subsidy for solar energy was scrapped. She invited people to place advance orders for solar panels – and when she had generated enough interest, she placed a single massive order for 50,000 panels with a factory in China. This resulted in a 35% discount, and panels that pay for themselves within 15 years.
Since the estimated life cycle of the panels is 25 years, customers will be able to profit from a decade of free eco-friendly electricity after paying off the initial investment. And that’s a prospect designed to make a bargain-conscious Dutchman’s heart beat faster.
The Dutch solar power sector initially scorned Marjan Minnesma’s initiative and some even attacked it for being unfair competition. But now even the sceptics have been forced to admit that doing away with the subsidy has turned out to be a blessing for solar power.