Eneco enters into dialogues

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J. Jonker, professor Sustainable Entrepreneurship at Radboud University Nijmegen: “Eneco now faces the challenge of taking real steps forward by developing business models that will influence the behaviour of people. Eneco is an influential player. The question is whether this influence can also be used to collaborate with customers in a new manner. It is possible, from a technical point of view, to enhance the sustainability of energy production, but truly operating within the planet’s boundaries requires the development of a new generation of business models. Eneco’s real challenge is to initiate a sustainable movement together with its customers.”

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Eneco Group is part of society. The interests of stakeholders in our company play a central role to us. This is why involving parties in our surroundings is a standard part of the working method in our operations.

Assessment

We made an assessment in 2012 of the most important stakeholders in our company. This formed the basis for a categorisation that enables us to prioritise our contacts and to select the right approach. The groups that have the largest impact on and are most affected by our strategy are our customers, employees, shareholders, government bodies and NGOs. They are closely followed by suppliers and subcontractors, which play an important role in connection with the proper implementation of our value chain responsibility.

Topics of discussion

People and organisations are involved in our company in a variety of ways. This is why we select different approaches to discuss our strategy and activities with each of them. With customers, we mainly talk about the service that we provide and our range of products and services, including topics such as the best ways to work together on saving energy and enhancing sustainability. With our employees, we discuss their commitment to our strategy. Consultations with the Governments of the countries in which we operate mainly focus on energy policy and with NGOs, we talk about sustainable development. A good example of the latter is the One Plant Thinking model, which we are developing in collaboration with WWF.

Dialogues with our customers

Who are our customers?

There are many ways in which people and organisations can be involved in Eneco and be labelled as a customer. They can be residents connected to our district heating networks or homeowners with our solar panels on their roofs. Other categories are people living near a wind farm, a chemical company that purchases steam and a waste processing company that supplies us with heat for district heating. Families who purchase our gas or electricity, employees who purchase our gas or electricity, housing corporations that purchase or lease solar panels or central heating installations, companies that purchase our smart metres; they are all customers of Eneco.

Listening to our customers

The customer first, that means: listening carefully to what our customers have to say. At Eneco, we put this into practice in every way possible. On 3 October 2013, Eneco won the Golden Ear Award, an annual prize that is awarded to the company that excels most at listening to their customers. Customers’ evaluation of the friendliness and cooperation of our employees has improved significantly. There is a lot of interest in our approach that encompasses a more personal, positive and welcoming approach of customers that we apply both internally and externally. Of course, we also take measures to prevent complaints. More information on the focus that we place on our customers can be found in the section Customer First. (page #)

Eneco’s Customer Service department in Belgium started to follow up their contacts with customers in May 2013, by sending them a questionnaire by email the very same day. Service desk employees can see the results as soon as customers have completed the questionnaire and can contact them immediately if necessary. The results of this approach are reflected in the positive evaluation by our customers.

Throughout the year, we organise events where we meet customers. A first series of sounding board sessions was organised in 2013. The results of these sessions were used as input for the development of propositions that we presented to the customers. During the Green Success Live Master Classes, organised in collaboration with MT Mediagroep, we used case studies to inspire entrepreneurs and the objective of the 'meet-the-client' programme is to stay informed of developments by paying regular visits to customers and listening to their feedback.

In 2013, we organised our Environmental Dinner corporate contacts for the sixth year in a row. These dinners form an opportunity to exchange ideas on sustainability-related topics with our corporate customers in a casual setting.

Customer forum

Eneco started a customer forum in 2012. This initially small forum turned out to make a substantial contribution to the online customer experience. On the forum, customers can pose questions about topics such as their annual invoice, the Toon thermostat or meter readings. They can also discuss sustainability-related topics with each other. The forum will be developed further in the coming period on the basis of the results of a session that was held in which customers were given the opportunity to propose ideas for the layout of the new website. As the input supplied by customers is very valuable to us, we shall be using the forum more often to ask customers to provide ideas about products, services, campaigns and other business activities. This way, we collaborate with customers to create a sustainable future. The forum can be accessed via forum.eneco.nl.

This new type of communication with our customers forms a challenge and learning experience. Fortunately, we have a number of enthusiastic customers who provide help in this area on a daily basis. They answer questions of other customers and lead or initiate discussions on interesting topics. The current nearly 3,000 active forum members have already posted more than 30,000 messages, which is sufficient reason for us to adapt the forum to comply even better with the requirement of these visitors.

Entrepreneurs join Eneco at the table

In September 2013, we started to organise business lunches aimed at strengthening the relationships with our SME customers by means of personal contact and dialogue. More than 300 entrepreneurs responded to our invitation to join us for lunch. During 14 lunches, personal contact was established between the entrepreneurs and a variety of Eneco employees. The setup of the lunches proved to meet the various expectations of the participants: learning about what sustainability can mean for them, discussing the vision of Eneco and those of the entrepreneurs in more detail, a look behind the scenes at Eneco or the possibility to discuss a personal issue.

More and more often, entrepreneurs indicate that they need a partner to help them to improve the sustainability of their company. A partner with the right expertise to provide input for energy efficiency solutions. The business lunches proved to be a good platform to discuss such matters in an informal manner together with other entrepreneurs. The personal interaction resulted in collaboration and individual issues were addressed and resolved. Based on the positive results, we have decided to continue these lunches in 2014.

Youngsters contribute ideas on energy saving

Young people are the energy consumers of the future. Sufficient reason for Eneco to make them aware of their energy consumption and to involve them in our company’s green strategy. This is why we invited youngsters to take part in the Eneco Challenge in May last year. The objective was to come up with a new version of our energy efficient Toon thermostat that would make energy more fun for younger people and make them more aware of their energy consumption. The intention was that this new version of Toon would be in line with the needs and interests of people between the ages of 17 and 27. One of the aspects of the winning concept, ‘Saving together’, is that it allows Toon thermostat users to compare their energy consumption with each other. This functionality is now integrated in the new version of Toon. Our positive experiences with the Energy Challenge have led to new plans for co-creation. More information about how we save energy in collaboration with customers in included in the section Energy efficiency.

Dialogue with local residents

People are more closely involved with sustainable energy in every sense, because it is produced locally to a greater extent than regular energy. This can have consequences for people living in the vicinity. The Netherlands and Belgium are densely populated areas where the implementation of sustainable energy facilities is sometimes met with concern. This is why we believe that it is important to involve stakeholders at an early stage and to take their wishes into account, as was the case with the installation of the Leiding over Noord, a new branch in our heat network in Rotterdam.

Eneco started the Eneco Luchterduinen offshore wind farm project in 2013, with the installation of the onshore electricity cables. Eneco Luchterduinen will be constructed at a distance of 23 kilometres from the coast between the municipalities of Noordwijk en Zandvoort and will be the second wind farm in the North Sea constructed by Eneco. Regular consultations are held with the municipalities concerned, local residents and other stakeholders. Together with its partner in the Luchterduinen wind farm project, Mitsubishi Corporation, and in consultation with the municipalities of Zandvoort, Noordwijk and Bloemendaal, Eneco will create a fund that will be available for a period of twenty years. This fund is intended to be used for the support of local sustainable initiatives. Involving local communities in the development of sustainable projects and asking them to contribute ideas on subsequent advantages is a growing trend. Eneco considers entering into a long-term relationship with local parties to be an important element of its strategy, in view of the fact that these projects will have a long-term effect on the communities in the region. Even though there is some resistance to the establishment of the fund, it is our opinion that the majority of the local community regards the fund as a positive contribution.

In the municipality of Houten, local residents have several possibilities to share in the revenues of the wind farm: bonds, a sustainability fund (Duurzaamheidsfonds Houten) and the availability of electricity in the form of the product ‘HollandseWind uit Houten’. The number of interested parties was far greater than the number of bonds issued. Over the next year, Eneco shall increasingly realise wind energy projects in collaboration with local sustainable energy initiatives in which local residents actively participate. Investors can track the real-time energy production of their wind turbines by means of an app.

Some residents of homes at a distance of less than 550 metres from Houten Wind Farm complain about noise and shadow flicker. It should be noted that the plans for the wind farm were already at an advanced stage before the plans for the new homes were developed. Independent research conducted at the request of Eneco demonstrates that the noise produced by the wind turbines does not exceed the applicable standards. Eneco is in consultation with the residents, knowing that there is also a lot of local support for the wind farm, as demonstrated by the overwhelming interest of inhabitants of Houten to participate in the wind farm by means of the bonds issued by Eneco.

Our activities in the United Kingdom are aimed at expanding our sustainable production capacity. The commitment of local residents is of great importance to create support and enthusiasm for our wind energy projects. Transparency about what local residents may expect from us is very important in this respect. On the basis of our Community Engagement Policy, we have put a number of commitments down in writing for which we can be held responsible.

Dialogue with our partners

Partners in local energy

The energy landscape is changing fast, which results in a major change in the roles of producers and customers; customers are becoming their own producers and suppliers. This means that we increasingly collaborate and have closer connections with our customers. An example of this is the partnership that we started in 2013 E-decentraal, a branch organisation for local sustainable energy initiatives and energy cooperatives. In consultation with E-decentraal, Eneco makes its knowledge and expertise available to help local initiatives with the realisation of local production of sustainable energy.

Eneco works together with several partners, such as Solar Green Point and WijkEnergie.coop, in order to help initiatives for energy cooperatives to get off to a good start. Each initiative can count on an experienced advisor for guidance.

Sharing knowledge about biomass

In 2013, Eneco and five other energy companies and NGOs participated in the project ‘Sustainable Wood Value Chains’ with the objective to be able to assess the risks of the use of wood on ILUC (Indirect Land Use Change) and Carbon Debt. Eneco is also an active member of the multi-stakeholder discussion group 'Herziening NTA8080' (Revision NTA8080) and participates in the workgroup ' Sustainability of Solid Biomass', which has been created to work out the stipulations in the SER national energy agreement in further detail.

Connecting leadership

In dialogue with our employees

A reliable, affordable and sustainable energy supply is of great importance to our society. Our customers and society count on us to help achieve this. In order to realise our mission of ‘Sustainable energy for everyone’, it is important that employees believe in and carry out their daily work in accordance with our mission and strategy. This is the only way that we can live up to our promise to the outside world. The Strategic Internal Alignment Monitor, a study that is carried out by the Erasmus Reputation Institute each year, is used to assess the extent to which our mission and strategy are reflected in the work of our employees.

With the aim to involve our employees in the development of our energy company, we are organising “Breakthrough” sessions. This is an interactive and dynamic method that aims to bring about the change in behaviour that is necessary to make the transition from supplier to service provider in accordance with our mission and ambitions.

Towards a new business model

The revolution in our energy landscape will have far-reaching consequences for the business model that we have applied for many years: purchasing, producing and selling electricity, gas and heating. As new models are necessary for the continuity of our company, we further intensified the research and development of new business models in 2013. This included participation in a study conducted by Radboud University Nijmegen. A study for which we provided support in the form of financing as well as manpower. Eneco is already applying new business models in the form of the participation model for wind energy (bonds issued for the Houten Wind Farm), the Toon thermostat approach and ESCO (Energy Service COmpany).

We are also looking for ways to further enhance sustainability in our supply chain. With a result of 81%, we have achieved our target that at least 75% of our expenditures is related to purchases (excluding energy) from suppliers that meet our sustainability criteria. See also the section on Supply chain responsibility.

In dialogue with the Government

A good energy supply is a shared responsibility, which makes us dependent on the energy policy pursued by the Government. For this reason, we like to communicate with the Government on a frequent basis. Our aim is to be a partner of European, national and local government bodies in the development and implementation of energy policy. Our core message in this context is always the same: we call on these parties to show sustainable ambition, consistently and decisively.

An important topic in 2013 was the SER national energy agreement, concluded between the Central Government and 40 organisations on 6 September 2013. In Eneco’s view, this socially widely supported agreement is a step in the right direction. The stimulation of renewable energy, the attention that is given to decentralised energy generation and the proposed shut down of old coal-fuelled plants are of particular importance. However, the details of the agreement, which will be specified during the coming years, will determine whether the targets that have been set will actually be achieved.

At EU-level, Eneco has been in contact with the European Committee, members of the European Parliament and a number of NGOs. Many of these activities related to the strengthening of the European Emissions Trading System (ETS). In 2013, we also started discussions on the content of a framework for a Climate and Energy Policy until 2030. In this context, Eneco frequently works together with a group of other European sustainable energy companies. Eneco also provided input for a number of European policy consultations.