The more I look into the story of the family that owned a Tesla powerwall (see previous four posts), the more I get the impression that there is more to the story than what meets the eye. In the article (and also the video that was linked to), it was the man of the family who did the talking. He was portrayed as a family man from Kermt (a tiny village with a population of 4.122) who installed a powerwall and this allowed him and his family to reduce their dependence on the power grid.
Yet, I was not really convinced. He indeed looks like an ordinary family man, but he sounded knowledgeable, the video was well made and only the advantages were highlighted, avoiding the disadvantages altogether. It seemed more like a slick sales pitch than an objective news item.
Later I learned that he signed in for the new model of the Tesla (the car). That is a hyped status symbol, not something that an ordinary family man would go for and he probably would have a higher than average salary.
There was also the puzzling tagline on his Facebook account:
Translation my emphasis):
Here you find all details on the home battery of Tom Nijsen and his strive for an inter-dependent energy landscape.
His strive for an “inter-dependent energy landscape”?
These are not the words that I would expect from a simple family man.
Also, seeing his interactions with the Eneco CEO, I had the impression that they interacted more like peers than as what one would expect from a supplier/client relationship.
All this made me suspect that there was more to it than just a simple family man who got himself a powerwall and was so happy with his new toy that he want to share the news with the rest of the world. I initially suspected that it was a media campaign of Eneco (an energy provider). They also want to profile themselves in the segment of selling powerwalls and their CEO did a plea to the government to support people purchasing these powerwalls.
So I began to wonder: who is that guy?
Then I got the idea to fire up a search engine and do a search for “tom nijsen kermt”. The first entry in the result list was LinkedIn and I immediately recognized the photo from his twitter account.
He is an Enterprise Architect at … Infrax.
Isn’t that the Belgian … energy distribution company? Indeed, the company logo reveals it.
That explains a lot!
Infrax is managing the infrastructure of our grid and one of their goals is to promote end users to be flexible with energy, meaning using energy when it is plentiful available (when there is a lot of sun and wind) and avoid using when it isn’t (when there isn’t much sun or wind).
So if I understand that correctly, the thing he promotes is helping to achieve one of the goals of his own company. Confirmed by the Eneco CEO who claimed that the more people with solar panels own a powerwall, the less investments the energy sector has to make. Probably also the energy distribution companies, among which is Infrax.
If he told both sides of the story and provided the readers with the tools to come to their own conclusions, I couldn’t care less who he is or what company he works for or what his position is or who his relations are.
That is obviously not the case here. Their goal of getting many people interested in purchasing the powerwall could only be reached by presenting it in a one-sided way and that is what happened.
Neither Nijsen nor the Eneco CEO are innocent bystanders in this story, yet they got plenty of support from the media. It is a alternative energy subject, so the journalist ran it uncritically and even disguised this advertisement as a news item.