Steven van den Heuvel is starting off 2020 full of energy. This should be the year when the company Vesqa will gain a serious foothold in Spain. What’s more, as a new innovative player, the company is set to break open the entrenched market of the energy companies.
It’s not that simple to do in Spain. And 43-year-old Van den Heuvel is well aware of that too. The southern European country, which this week will at last welcome another new government, is not known as a front runner in the field of sustainable energy. And the ambitions of the new left-wing PSOE and Podemos coalition are not all that progressive as far as the climate is concerned. All energy must be 100% sustainable by 2050. Van den Heuvel will already have retired by then.
How different this is to the policy at the beginning of this century in the country with practically the most hours of sunshine in Europe. At that time, Spain stood up as a forerunner and launched ambitious plans for green energy. Solar park owners were guaranteed a minimum price until 2033 for electricity that they supplied to the national electricity system. This measure led to unbridled investments. Approximately 400 megawatts of production capacity were expected. It turned into 3500. The result was a shortfall of tens of billions of euros.
A new Spanish government put an end to the entire policy at the end of 2011. In fact, even more had to be paid for the continued production of renewable energy. So in Spain, even the sun no longer rose for free. Within a few months Spain went from being a leader in the development of solar energy, to a country where solar panels were viewed as something negative. The traditional energy companies Endesa, Iberdrola, Gas Natural, HC and E.ON kept the ranks closed for any newcomers.
Change of mentality
Until a new wind started blowing. Under pressure from global climate problems, the ‘solar tax’ was abolished in 2018 and the market quickly reopened. Van den Heuvel saw a change in mentality that, according to him, will be unstoppable in the coming decades. He opened a branch of Vesqa in Madrid together with two partners. They then launched an offensive with an innovative company that is unrivaled in Spain.
Van den Heuvel invited me to his office in order to outline his plans. “You have to see us as a kind of Booking, Uber or Airbnb that breaks through a conservative market with a new way of working,” he explains. Vesqa wants to do that in two ways. They themselves want to generate sustainable energy at large companies and institutions. And Vesqa wants to use modern software to start monitoring this renewable energy in such a way that it not only generates savings, but also generates enough surplus energy to be able to distribute it locally.
Van den Heuvel thinks he will be able to take his first real steps after closing a deal with a hospital in the north of the country. “That hospital already supplies its own sustainable energy via solar panels and various other sources. We are going to optimize that for them so that they’ll save a million euros within ten years,” he predicts. “With the help of all sorts of codes and data, Vesqa can monitor everything. Temperature, wind, rain. But also the price of the energy at that moment. Van den Heuvel: “If you coordinate all that with each other, there’s much to be gained from the Spanish sun.”