Energy democracy: New Danish wind firm rattles industry
By Philip Ebels
Morten Nissen Nielsen, a young entrepreneur from Denmark, is well underway to establish himself as a thorn in the side of traditional energy companies. He sells wind energy to households at a lower price than what people pay for regular energy. He began operations on 1 January and has been overrun by clients ever since.
"In two weeks time, we have reached what we expected to reach in three months," he says, without wanting to divulge the exact number of his clients.
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His company, Vindstoed, has agreements with owners of some 2,500 wind turbines across Denmark to deliver energy directly to customers. It can handle up to 100,000 clients - a limit which on 23 January had not yet been reached. "We can easily scale up," says Nielsen.
The secret of Vindstoed - which means "gust of wind" - is its way of handling business administration.
"We have created our own IT-model," Nielsen explains. "We do almost everything automatically. Transferring clients from their current company to ours; sending invoices: we have taken all the aspects of operating an energy company with the purpose of automatisation."
That is why he is able to dive beneath the average price by five to 10 percent, he says. He has next to no labour costs. The company does not even employ a secretary and does not offer telephone support. "We run an energy company with no more than three to five employees," says Nielsen.
Traditional companies get their energy from a variety of sources, including coal, oil, and nuclear. Most also offer a wind-only alternative, but have not been able to attract a large clientele.
The difference - aside from price - is that Vindstoed clearly promotes itself as a wind-only energy company, Nielsen says. He had a lucky break when Danish public television aired a two-minute item about the launch of the company during prime time.
Nielsen, 37, likes to believe that he empowers the citizen to vote with his or her choice of energy source.
"When people buy food, they look at the ingredients," he says. "Not so with electricity. Why not? People expect politicians to solve the climate problem. But what if we gave them as consumers the power to put pressure on companies to invest in clean energy?"
The fact that people have long had but largely flouted this power, does not seem to undermine Nielsen's belief in the consumer. If anything, he believes his success shows that people are willing to make a well-considered choice, on the condition that the price is right and it is easy to do.
The future appears bright for the company and its founder. "The climate topic is here to stay," he says. "And we have made a product that is good for people who care about climate."