Grid operator Alliander is going to invest € 844 million over the next 12 months on upgrading its energy networks. This is necessary to guarantee reliable energy supplies for companies and residents, according to the grid operator in its Annual Plan 2019, which was published on Tuesday.
Alliander says that not only is the demand for new connections to the electricity grid continuing to grow sharply, but existing networks are also being heavily burdened as a result of the energy transition. In 2018, the advance of electric vehicles led to a 20% increase in the number of charging stations, to more than 4,350 in the catchment areas served by Alliander.
The capacity of renewable solar energy sources also rose sharply last year, by 76 percent. Solar panels and wind generators supplied electricity to a total of more than 1 million households in the Alliander catchment area, which covers about a third of the Netherlands. Alliander has 5.7 million connections (2017 figures) in the Netherlands, spread over the provinces of Noord-Holland, Zuid-Holland, Gelderland, Friesland and Flevoland.
The forthcoming Climate Agreement is looming large over this year. By 2020, all the provinces and municipalities in the Netherlands have to complete their Regional Energy Strategies. ‘This demands intensive cooperation between municipalities, provinces, network managers and other stakeholders,' said CEO Ingrid Thijssen in a press release published by Alliander on Tuesday.
‘We’re all jointly responsible for designing the best sustainable energy supply possible in each neighbourhood, to keep the costs for society down. Moreover, the way we go about this should be planned in accordance with Regional Energy Strategies, so that everyone knows what has to be done and when. Preferably, this should be done as far in advance as possible, so we can get licences in good time and deploy our scarce technicians, contractors, construction companies and installers where they are needed most.’
One thing Alliander wants to do in 2019 is to organise local energy auctions to ensure a better balance between supply and demand, as the Annual Plan makes clear. Late last year, an energy market of this kind was launched in Nijmegen (for more, see: ‘Flexible energy market in Nijmegen-Noord') and soon a similar flexible market will be launched for the Zuidplaspolder in Zuid-Holland.
Alliander is also looking at the flexible charging of electric transport, in other words charging vehicles during off-peak hours. The measure is intended to use existing network resources more effectively, and reduce the need for extra investments.
The investments are above all related to new commitments. ‘Until about 2 years ago, we were making about 20 of our largest type of connections a year. These are connections to major consumers, or wind farms that supply a lot of electricity to the electricity grid. This year, no less than 90 of these connections are planned,’ Alliander reports in the Annual Plan. In addition, the grid needs to be upgraded at various locations, examples being the significant power requirements of new all-electric housing estates and data centres.
The grid operator is also launching a study into automatic control in solar farms and wind farms. It has been decided at European level that large solar parks and wind farms must be able to support the energy system. For this purpose, they are fitted with voltage and power control systems. Liander, one of the companies in the Alliander group, is going to investigate whether this can be automated according to available grid capacity. If grid capacity is available, automatic controls can be used to generate sustainable energy using the existing network capacity, according to the grid operator.
The utility company Alliander, a spin-off from energy company NUON, is owned by a number of provinces and the City of Amsterdam. Last year, it invested 809 million euros in upgrading the electricity grid, an increase on the average 400 million invested by the utility company in the previous years.
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