The changing energy system

The Netherlands aims to be climate neutral by 2050, which means that we need to restructure our energy system: demand for energy is changing and increasing. Customers are submitting requests for large-scale batteries (75 GW) and the industry, companies, data centres, hydrogen plants and new residential areas are also submitting requests for upgrades or new connections. All of these developments together are far outpacing our network expansion capabilities. Rising energy prices and increasingly strict climate ambitions are speeding everything up by a significant margin. The number of users switching to electricity is skyrocketing. In many regions, there is no room for them in the power grid. On a national level, we are analysing the limits of what the networks can handle in the regions. In addition to this, the electrification of companies and households also increases the number of users connected to district electricity networks. As a result, smaller companies and consumers are increasingly having to wait longer for a connection or upgrade as well. 

The pressure on the electricity supply is mainly high at peak times, which leads to certain risks. It may slow down housing developments, economic growth and efforts to improve sustainability in the Netherlands. Maximising the accessibility of the energy network not only requires significant investments in the network, but also requires a behavioural change from all of us.
We should mainly be using electricity during periods when sustainable wind or solar generation is high and less electricity during peak times. Smart charging of vehicles and appliances with smart controls should become the norm. The fact that companies are locally coordinating their electricity supply and demand to reduce the capacity required for the power grid is a positive development. In addition, starting this year the cabinet and network operators want to proactively launch flex tenders this year, allowing companies like battery operators to offer a capacity of more than 1 GW to the power grid for longer periods in strategic locations during peak times.

Integral Infrastructure Survey

The restructuring of our energy system is the largest overhaul our country has ever seen. The joint network operators are working hard to modify and expand the energy infrastructure accordingly. In April 2023 we presented the Integral Infrastructure Survey for 2030-2050. This new report presents a current picture of the developments required to successfully restructure the energy system and how we as a society can grow towards a climate-neutral energy system in 2050. Here we are also considering the need for infrastructure and the development pathways for this infrastructure. Together with the other network operators, we worked on an Implementation Agenda in 2023, containing the specifications of the approach for regional infrastructure.

National Implementation Agenda for acceleration
Network operators are hard at work scaling up to build as much additional infrastructure as possible, but that is not enough. The implementation needs to be accelerated, and that is only possible by working together – network operators, contractors, clients and public authorities – more systematically, with a focus on building the energy system, with the risks assigned to those parts of the supply chain where they can be absorbed and eliminated. This will make the implementation more logical and faster. In November, the network operators therefore published a proposal for a National Implementation Agenda for Regional Infrastructure, in which the regional network operators take a first step in outlining how this acceleration should be achieved. Network operators want to enter into discussions with stakeholders regarding this Implementation Agenda to see how the acceleration can be achieved together. The Association of Energy Network Operators in the Netherlands (Netbeheer Nederland) views this National Implementation Agenda for Regional Infrastructure as the starting point for a national dialogue regarding the implementation, which should result in an implementation agreement to be signed by the parties involved.

Coordination and collaboration 

The changing energy system presents an infrastructural task the likes of which have not been seen before and the scale and timelines are highly challenging. It is important for the development of supply, demand and infrastructure to take place as much as possible in mutual consultation. To make sure the roll-out of energy infrastructure is more in line with issues raised by customers, we require timely clarity about the energy solution we will need to create for each area and what its spatial design should be. Alliander is collaborating closely with all the public authorities in our service area. We call this systematic combining of developments ‘energy planning’. Together we make coordinated, structured and well-considered decisions in the field of spatial planning, energy and phasing on all levels (national, provincial, regional, municipal and residential). In Gelderland, for example, these efforts have partly resulted in locations being assigned for future development as energy hubs. Energy hubs make optimum use of local sustainable energy and manage its generation, storage, conversion and consumption. They also enable direct connections between various types of green electricity.