On 14 June 2016, gas and electricity supplier Lampiris officially announced it had reached an agreement with the company Total. Lampiris had definitely become part of the French oil group. In practical terms, Total agreed to acquire 100% of the shares of the Liège-based company and the operation was completed within weeks of the announcement.
But not everyone was pleased with this agreement. Many Lampiris customers expressed their surprise or even their dissatisfaction at this purchase and were quick to make their views known out on social media. And rightly so, since they are entitled to wonder whether Lampiris’ values (sustainability and local production) still mean anything now that the company has been incorporated into a multinational oil company.
However, Lampiris seems to want to remain faithful to its historical values. This is demonstrated by its many investments in renewable energy, such as its agreement in June 2020 with Rental, a wind farm on the Belgian coast.
So, is Lampiris still “green, Belgian and cheaper”? That’s what we’re going to try and find out.
These market share figures are calculated in terms of access points.
As of 30 June 2020, Lampiris was the third-ranked player in the Walloon market behind ENGIE and Luminus, and the second-ranked in Brussels in the absence of Luminus in the Brussels market. In Flanders, Lampiris is behind the two historic leaders and Eneco.
Before considering whether a supplier is “green”, one first needs to understand what is meant by “green electricity“. Electricity is considered 100% green when it is produced from renewable energy sources such as the sun, water, wind and biomass. However, at present, wind, solar, hydroelectric and biomass power plants do not produce all of the electricity consumed in Belgium. So it is still necessary to use nuclear or gas power stations which produce so-called “grey” electricity.
However, the European Union does allow suppliers to sell grey electricity as 100% green electricity. If the supplier wishes to do this, they must obtain a guarantee of origin label (GOL) for each megawatt hour (1,000 kWh) sold.
In practice, whenever a megawatt hour of electricity is produced from a renewable source, the producer receives a guarantee of origin label (GOL). If the producer is also a supplier, they can retain this GOL to prove that the electricity they supply is green. If they do not supply electricity directly to residential customers, the producer can sell the GOL to a supplier in the market for a small sum (around 50 euro cents). This transaction allows suppliers to support sustainable energy producers, but they are sometimes accused of abusing the system in order to “greenwash” their electricity. This practice is also heavily criticised by the environmental organisation Greenpeace.
To prevent such abuse, the system is controlled by the various regional regulators (CWaPE for Wallonia, Brugel for Brussels, and VREG for Flanders). Brugel and VREG also offer monitoring tools to determine whether the energy consumed has been offset by guarantee of origin labels. You, too, can find out its origin.
So what about Lampiris?
The company owns several renewable energy production units. These include a wind farm in Couvin and a concession of hydroelectric facilities at Lake Eau d’Heure. However, these are not sufficient for Lampiris to cover the entire consumption of all its customers. For that reason, like many of its competitors, it has to buy energy to make up the difference.
To do this, the Belgian supplier uses two different sources:
The disadvantage of the second source is that the origin of the energy is not always traceable. It is therefore quite possible that some nuclear energy will slip into Lampiris’ energy mix. This, unfortunately, is an unavoidable consequence for suppliers who do not produce 100% of their green electricity.
However, Lampiris should be able to reduce its dependence on the European markets through its exclusive agreement with a wind farm on the north coast. Under this agreement, the entire electricity production from this farm will be provided to Lampiris customers. In practice, it involves 42 wind turbines, producing around one terawatt hour (TWh) per year. The agreement covers a period of 15 years.
But how are Lampiris and other Belgian suppliers able to state that they supply electricity that is 100% green and Belgian? Simply by buying GOLs from Belgian producers. So, if Lampiris cannot claim that it buys all of its electricity from Belgian producers, it can at least prove that it has supported their work by buying their GOLs.
At present, only certain suppliers in the form of cooperatives can claim to produce as much green energy as is consumed by their customers. That is the case with Aeco.
Although the integration of Lampiris into an oil group can be criticised, it must be said that it has had only a very limited impact on its energy mix. The Belgian company does not appear to have renounced its values, and it continues to invest in renewable energy production. Nor does it offer fossil fuels. This is an encouraging situation for other suppliers who have been taken over in a similar way, such as Eneco.
There is no production of natural gas in Belgium. This means that all the suppliers obtain their supplies from foreign sources. Lampiris is no exception.
Until the announcement of a buyout by Total, Lampiris had always highlighted its local and Belgian roots in its advertising campaigns. But its takeover by French group Total has unsettled many of its customers.
However, Lampiris is trying to be reassuring. The company is still an entity dedicated to Belgian consumers, even if it is now part of a French organisation.
Lampiris also continues to offer attractive promotions to its new Belgian customers. These offers are not available on the supplier’s website, but do appear on the online comparison sites.
When the Walloon market was liberalised in 2007, Lampiris differentiated itself from its competitors by offering very competitive energy rates. That is still the case today, but to a lesser extent. In fact, its gas and electricity rates have gradually increased over the years.
This change can be explained by a strategy that has evolved over time. Like the new suppliers entering the market, Lampiris set about acquiring customers through competitive rates, even if that meant reducing its profit margin. Then, once the Lampiris customer portfolio had grown sufficiently, the provider gradually increased its prices in order to achieve the level of profitability it had set for itself.
Several options are available for people who want to be certain of getting the most competitive rates on the market:
To ensure that you get the best price at any given time, you are advised to activate the promotions and annual reductions which sometimes amount to more than €150 for an average household.
The principle of group purchases is to bring together a large number of people in order to issue a tender to the various players in the gas and/or electricity market. This makes it possible to obtain discounts thanks to the mass effect. Many group purchases organised by Wikipower allow thousands of consumers to reduce their energy bills.
Lampiris has been highly criticised since its takeover by Total. But, at the end of the day, the supplier has remained pretty faithful to the values it has always advocated. Its investment in renewable energy increases every year, it makes sure that it promotes Belgian producers wherever possible, and it implements a range of promotions for its customers. Although the company could clearly do better, it is reassuring to see that it enjoys considerable independence from its French parent company.
Ultimately, it is only the local cooperatives that can claim to provide a greener and more local energy that Lampiris, but often at higher prices.
What do you think about the green energy suppliers in Belgium? Share your views in the comments!