Declaring one’s intention to switch provider is not the same as actually saving electricity at peak hour

gray to green

The new campaign of the Flemish Green Party (Dutch) is rather confusing. It is difficult to determine what they are trying to achieve. If we just look at the title it is rather clear: “We close Doel”. Doel being the two nuclear reactors Doel 1 and 2. I can understand that. These are the two oldest reactors in our country and if they are not needed, as they say, then they can just as well be closed.

There was also the statement in their FAQ that by saving electricity in the evening consumption peak, those two reactors would become redundant. I also can understand that. The grid has to accommodate the highest consumption. In our country that is in winter, specifically during the evening peak. If that evening peak is lower or non-existent, then less supply needs to be guaranteed.

But, remarkably, this is not how the campaign is conducted (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

You too can make a difference. Switch today to a green energy supplier and make the closure of the nuclear power plants possible. Sign up and receive immediately a useful road map in your mailbox.

The motto of the campaign is: From gray to green. Gray meaning “gray electricity” (from non-renewable sources) and green meaning “green electricity” (from renewable sources). Basically, people can fill in a poll and declare that they want to switch provider, from gray to green. Or, as an alternative, to declare that they already did so in the past. If they choose that they want to switch, they will get additional information how to perform this switch. Central at the home page is a counter that keeps track of the kWh of those who are willing to switch to a green provider (not sure though what happens with those who declare they already switched).

So people could make a difference by … just declaring their intention to switch to a green energy provider? But more importantly: what has switching to a green provider practically has to do with making Doel 1 and 2 redundant? If those who switch to a “green” supplier still use electricity at peak moments, then consumption will not change anyway.

I found these in their FAQ (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

Already 636,015 Flemish households and businesses turned their back to Electrabel since 2010. The market share of Electrabel in Flanders therefore plummeting in five years from 64% in 2010 down to 42% in 2015. Every customer who makes the switch is a clear signal to the government.

and

If our government does not want to break the monopoly of Electrabel, we will do it. All together. Every family or company that switches to a green supplier, is giving a clear signal.

That explains a lot. This is a political campaign against the current political majority in the hope that they would close Doel 1 and 2. But the goal of the current majority is to secure power supply as it was not guaranteed during winter in the last couple years. So I don’t see how they would consider to close Doel 1 and 2 when they think this power supply is still needed.

How realistic is the hope to influence the government by people switching provider? It is true that Electrabel lost quite some market share over the years, but one could ask what signal this gives to the government. Most of those who switched provider did so because they wanted cheaper energy, not because they wanted green energy.

Also, the fact that people declare that they considering switching, doesn’t necessarily mean they are actually going to do so. Okay, they get information on how to do the switch after they filled in the poll, but there is no guarantee they actually going to do the switch. So my guess is that the current majority will not be much impressed by this campaign, whatever the number on that counter will be.

Participate in a poll is very easy, but just a meaningless gesture devoid of any reality. Stating that one is willing to switch provider is entirely different from actually start saving electricity in the evening peak and actually show that those reactors aren’t needed anymore. They better made a campaign from counting those who pledge not use x number of kWh in the evening peak in stead of those who want to switch to another provider. The results of such campaign would probably better visible than those who switch provider.

If the Green Party could manage to convince people to ACTUALLY reduce their energy consumption on the long term in the range of the output of a 900 MW plant, now THAT would send a strong signal. I don’t hold my breath on that one though.

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One thought on “Declaring one’s intention to switch provider is not the same as actually saving electricity at peak hour

  1. poitsplace

    They’re just pushing more good intentions from a position of profound ignorance. In fact, that pretty much sums up most liberal platforms these days. It covers a lot of conservative ones too. Basically the developed world is currently operating in fantasy land…overspending, underperforming…and pushing hard for protections against imaginary monsters at the expense of actually getting something done.

    Reply

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