Energy market 3 May 2022 • 8 minutes
“Energy suppliers are all the same”. Are they, though? Nevertheless, that’s what you might think at first glance. After all, it’s hard to be creative in the energy market, isn’t it? Major corporations produce gas or electricity using their vast production or extraction facilities, and suppliers purchase this energy wholesale and sell it on to their customers (households or businesses).
How on earth can you differentiate an ENGIE from a Luminus when their main activity is almost identical? Admittedly, they do not offer the same pricing options or the same ancillary services, but the way they produce energy is fundamentally the same.
In Belgium, however, a handful of alternative energy suppliers are proving that it is certainly possible. Having emerged after the liberalisation of the energy market, these companies are young and ambitious, but most of all they invite consumers to explore other ways of obtaining their energy supplies. To do this, they promise their customers green, locally-produced energy, and they often structure themselves as a cooperative. A dream for consumers who care deeply about green issues and the environment!
In any event, what is certain is that these alternative suppliers do not do things in the “traditional” way. Let’s meet them.
Many energy suppliers operating in Belgium are not actually Belgian. They are owned by international groups. That is the case, for example, with ENGIE (formerly Electrabel), which belongs to the French group of the same name, and TotalEnergies, which is now a subsidiary of TOTAL.
This situation has led to the rapid appearance of companies claiming to be 100% local. This is particularly the case in Flanders, where several suppliers have decided to focus specifically on providing local energy. This is the case, for example with, Elegant, Vlaamse Energieleverancier and Trevion.
Their promise? To obtain green energy from Flemish producers in order to distribute it to Flemish customers. In this way, they undertake to keep the energy provision supply chain short.
Although the three suppliers mentioned above work only with local producers, they do not necessarily reveal who those producers are. This is quite understandable for competitiveness reasons. However, this is not the approach taken by Bolt, the most recent supplier to appear on the market.
Operating in Flanders and now in Wallonia as well, Bolt confidently lists the gas and electricity producers from which it obtains its supplies. In this way, it gives its customers the opportunity to support the producer of their choice, by opting for wind-generated electricity from a farmer in Antwerp or solar energy from a couple in Liège. Will this strategic positioning from Bolt pay off? We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, we have to admire the originality of the concept.
Obtaining green, local energy is a splendid initiative, but did you know that you could go even further? Are you interested in being not only a consumer but also an agent of change? That is what’s on offer from five civic cooperatives in Belgium, which also act as suppliers:
But what exactly is a civic cooperative? Although such a company clearly performs the traditional functions of an energy supplier, it distinguishes itself by taking the particular legal form of a cooperative. This means that the customers themselves can become shareholders in the business by buying shares.
This will help to finance green electricity production units: wind turbines, photovoltaic panels, hydroelectric installations, etc. In this way, the energy produced by these production facilities is consumed directly by the customer-cooperators.
Despite evident enthusiasm for this type of company, there is only one cooperative in Belgium:
The company in question is Energie 2030. It is, incidentally, a pioneer in the field since it first became involved in energy transition in 1995, well before the liberalisation of the market.
Today, the cooperative has developed around fifteen green electricity generation projects, involving wind turbines, photovoltaic solar plants and hydroelectric plants. It also guarantees that the gas and electricity it provides is of European origin.
However, to be a customer you have to become a cooperator, which means you have to purchase at least one share in the business. You will then receive two benefits:
Opting for one of these alternative energy suppliers is not necessarily the most obvious choice. Clearly, they do not have the same financial resources as the large energy groups, and this is reflected in a number of areas (the lack of promotions and ancillary services, no online customer space or only with limited options, etc.).
Nevertheless, they offer one advantage that the traditional suppliers do not: better traceability. Most of them make a point of obtaining green, locally-produced electricity.
The challenge is more complicated when it comes to providing biogas, but Trevion succeeds thanks to its installations, while Energie 2030 guarantees that it obtains it supplies from European producers.
Naturally, certain more traditional suppliers are also exemplary in their efforts to provide energy from renewable sources. But they lack a genuine local base.
Did you know? If you want to check which suppliers invest most heavily in energy transition, you can use the Greenpeace ranking . The NGO’s indicators have also been incorporated into the Energyprice.be supplier records as additional information.
So, should you be tempted by one of these alternative suppliers? It’s up to you, depending on your needs! Whatever you decide, the Energyprice.be team is by your side to offer you advice. So feel free to contact one of our energy experts to find out whether an alternative supplier could be appropriate for your consumption!
What should you do if you want to choose a new contract from an alternative energy supplier? Firstly, check whether the green supplier you are interested in can actually supply energy in your municipality. Once that is confirmed, you can follow the usual steps for switching contracts:
Do you dream of doing something more to help the environment by consuming your energy differently? If so, you should be able to find what you need among the various alternative energy suppliers operating in Belgium.
Although the choice is wider in the north of the country, things are also happening in Wallonia, with Energie 2030, Cociter and Bolt. Remember, however, that these suppliers generally offer a more limited level of service than the traditional suppliers, given that they are smaller organisations.
What will you choose? Are you ready to be tempted by a local supplier or a cooperative?