Our energy system is changing at a rapid rate. Timely anticipation of developments that may affect our customers and our activities is crucial for Alliander. In 2015, we revised our strategy in response to the changing energy supply system. We see three important trends and eight related challenges for the energy system.
Trend 1: society electrifies
The proper operation of our society - individuals, households and businesses - is increasingly dependent on electricity. Heating, telephony, internet and medical care can no longer do without electricity, nor can new energy-intensive applications, such as electric driving and fully electric heating.
Challenge 1: growing need for electricity transmission capacity
The increasing and more intensive use of electrical applications calls for greater transmission capacity of the electricity network.
Challenge 2: The electricity network is supposed to be even more reliable than ever
Due to their growing dependence on our electricity supply, customers have increasingly high expectations regarding the reliability of the electricity network.
Alongside the growth of electricity applications, we notice a decrease in the demand for natural gas. Modern buildings use so little gas for heating and hot water that alternative heating solutions are becoming increasingly attractive for new-build and renovation projects.
Challenge 3: number of gas connections is falling
We expect our dependence on gas and the number of gas connections to decrease significantly in the coming years.
Trend 2: bottom-up drive towards more renewable energy
Renewable energy is becoming an ever-greater priority. Consumers are increasingly opting for renewable energy alternatives. The National Energy Agreement provides for a package of measures aimed at generating 16% of our energy from renewable sources by 2023. And the European Union member states are targeting an 80% reduction in CO2 production by 2050. Finally, ambitious global climate goals were set by the Paris Climate Summit at the end of 2015. We see the following challenges:
Challenge 4: renewable sources influence quality of gas and electricity supply
The increased generation of wind, solar and tidal energy leads to greater fluctuations in the energy supply as well as variances in voltage quality. The arrival of biogas and green gas makes strict monitoring of the gas quality imperative. This has consequences for the quality and security of supply of the existing networks.
Challenge 5: peak loads influence reliability
Solar panels, electric transport and heat pumps are characterised by a high degree of ‘simultaneity’: supply and use of electricity largely take place at the same time. For instance, when the sun shines, all panels in a neighbourhood will immediately start feeding energy into the network. The current electricity network is unable to cope with these new peak loads. This development has consequences for the reliability of the existing networks, particularly if the use of these installations continues to grow in the future.
Challenge 6: Universal access to new energy networks cannot be taken for granted
Alongside the electricity and gas networks, there is a growing demand for heating and charging infrastructures. Customers are also starting to form collectives in order to invest in decentralised energy generation facilities, such as wind turbines and solar panels. Not all users will necessarily enjoy guaranteed access to this new energy infrastructure on equal conditions.
Challenge 7: grid defection is becoming a serious scenario
Decentralised electricity generation and storage will be a reasonably affordable option within ten years. The number of users - both individuals and collectives - that fulfil their own energy needs is set to grow. This means that in the longer term more and more businesses and households will cancel their connections. This, in turn, will inflate the costs per connection for customers who have not yet disconnected. Exactly how this transition to more renewable energy will take place is difficult to predict.
Key factors in the development towards a more renewable energy supply are the speed with which users switch over to renewable energy and the specific solutions they select. Sustainability is essentially a bottom-up process.
Trend 3: crucial role for information technology and data
ICT and data enable network operators to improve their energy flowmanagement, prevent and detect faults faster, make more targeted investments and offer new services to customers. It also enables them to optimise the usage of the existing energy infrastructure by suppliers and customers. Finally, ICT and data also make it possible for suppliers to develop new products and services that empower users - consumers, businesses and authorities - to manage their own energy flows.
Challenge 8: ICT creates important opportunities
Information technology and data are set to play a crucial role in the design, operation and optimisation of our energy supply. ICT is a high-impact driver of the changes in the energy system.
Below, we have set out the strategy we have developed to address these challenges in the changing energy landscape. You can also read where our organisation sees opportunities and threats in our SWOT analysis in 'Other information'.