The Netherlands has been repeatedly presented in research as fascinating for studying renewable energy initiatives not only because of its vibrant 30 plus year history of local cooperative actors in the growing energy decentralization space, but also because of how tightly it continues to clutch its centralized fossil fuel-heavy energy system, ranking second to last in renewables as a share (6.6% as of 2017) of gross final energy consumption among European Union member states. Against this backdrop, the social innovations that local renewable energy cooperatives represent are no less relevant today than they were in the 1980s. The performance and effectiveness of this latest wave of urban cooperatives in spurring the Dutch energy transition by specializing in small collective solar production projects on rooftops is positive on the one hand. However, in their pursuit to make their projects highly replicable under a less-than-favourable public policy environment, it is curious to consider the extent to which this movement continues to be a radical innovation. This research uses recently developed theoretical frameworks to explain the transformative journey of these latest energy cooperatives, reconciling their project initiatives with a suitable business model for sustainability transitions. These concepts suggest such niche initiatives identify and partner with a like-minded regime actor to help them realize their transformative goals. Greenchoice, a Rotterdam-based energy supplier among the country’s largest, markets itself as providing 100% green energy to over 450,000 customers and is an ardent supporter and power purchasing client of local energy cooperatives. The purpose of this study is to generate more insight into the nature and level of the cooperation between cooperatives and Greenchoice to determine the extent to which the needed resources sought after by cooperatives have enabled them to continue their grassroots movement as social innovators by realizing new projects. The research methods include secondary historical data on the projects developed and in-depth interviews of urban cooperatives and third-party knowledge-exchange organizations for the local renewable energy movement. The study finds that, while the regulations concerning the government project support scheme used by cooperatives makes cooperation with an energy supplier like Greenchoice a necessity, the cooperation is positive by most indicators in helping cooperatives realize their projects successfully. However, there are other challenges to project development that cooperatives do not yet actively discuss with Greenchoice, largely due to limits it places on its perceptions of it as an energy supplier. For its part, Greenchoice’s positive reputation with cooperatives is well-earned, but must continue to weigh its motivations as a sustainable enterprise with its commercial identity and more actively bring itself and cooperatives closer as true project collaborators who can together effectively strategize for a national transformational change in the energy value chain to sustainable and local production. Keywords: The Netherlands, energy transition, renewable energy cooperatives, business model, nicheregime dynamics

Gianoli, A. Alberto
Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies

Cuizon, D.Don. (2019, September). Assessment of social innovation cooperation in the Dutch energy transition. Retrieved from