editor Climate and Energy
Network company Stedin received three times as many requests for new electrical capacity as the year before, three gigawatts instead of one gigawatt. Companies that use a lot of energy want to switch from natural gas to electricity on a large scale. It only exacerbates the tightness of the electricity grid. Stedin therefore calls on companies to mainly use energy when the wind is blowing hard or the sun is shining brightly.
The energy transition has gained momentum, Stedin reports today with the publication of its annual figures. Good for the climate, but problematic for the electricity grid. Last year, the company invested more than 700 million euros in, among other things, expanding that network. Stedin had actually only foreseen this situation for the year 2030. Growth is expected to continue this year. Hence the appeal to companies, says David Peters of Stedin.
“We have to build a lot more pipes and transformers anyway. And the second thing we really have to do is to make better use of the existing grid. We can’t do that alone, we also need the large consumers to get that done.” Stedin would like to see companies become flexible with their production processes. “If there is a lot of sun and wind, that means scaling up, so more production is running. If there is little sun and wind, then produce less,” explains Peters.
The problem of shortages in the electricity grid is exacerbated by the fact that more and more companies with large batteries want to trade in electricity. “In the Stedin area, we have applications for battery connections about three times that of the city of The Hague. These are large connections from parties that want to trade on the energy markets, and they thus claim a piece of the energy infrastructure.”
The idea is that if companies start producing more flexibly, bottlenecks in the grid can be limited. To this end, companies could look more closely at the weather forecast and estimate when it would be wise to increase their production. That is part of a new energy system, says Peters. Stedin cannot force companies to produce at times when there is a lot of sun or wind.
The network operator’s call to companies to sometimes use more and sometimes less power is not well received by the interest group of large energy consumers. According to Hans Grünfeld of VEMW, network operators such as Stedin must solve the shortage on the network themselves.
Over the fence
“What we have trouble with is that the grid managers are now throwing their problem over the fence at the industry. And saying: we occasionally have traffic jams and a shortage of capacity, and then companies should use less power.”
He believes that network operators should have planned the expansion of the electricity network better and arranged extra capacity on the network more quickly.
Grünfeld also thinks that it is impossible for many companies to comply with Stedin’s request. Most businesses, especially those with chemical and other industrial plants, are designed to be on all the time. “If they run less, less is produced and that is extremely costly.” New installations will take into account that the energy system is changing, he says.
Energy expert Andy van den Dobbelsteen of TU Delft thinks it is an understandable call from Stedin. “I think it makes sense, because we are increasingly dependent on renewable energy sources, solar and wind in particular. And these are fluctuating. So we will have to adjust our demand a little more to what the supply is at that time. And not vice versa, as it has been up to now.”
He sees that other countries are already taking into account times when electricity is fully available due to the favorable weather. Such as in Denmark, where strongly fluctuating prices have been used for some time.
“The energy market there is very dependent on the availability of wind energy,” he says, because Denmark has many wind farms. “That means that the prices there can vary considerably from day to day. Then it makes a lot of sense for a company to buy in precisely at that time when the price is low, and therefore the supply is high.”