Interview with Doede Vierstra

Interview with Doede Vierstra, chair of the Supervisory Board

For the Supervisory Board, 2021 was dominated by two topics: financing the energy transition and a new composition of the Board of Management. While financing is proving a tough issue, the renewal of the Board of Management went smoothly.

‘We need to enlarge the circle of shareholders.’ Doede Vierstra, chair of the Supervisory Board, often uses this phrase when talking about how to finance the energy transition. A larger circle of shareholders is essential to ensure sufficient funding into the future. The issue of financing calls for an integrated approach to various parties. New shareholders, such as central government, provinces or municipalities that have no shareholding at present, are needed to strengthen Stedin’s financial position and enable the necessary investments to be made. ‘We can’t expect our regional shareholders to shoulder this heavy burden by themselves. Furthermore, the interest we are pursuing, facilitating the energy transition, has both a regional and national dimension. It is a shared responsibility.’ Doede sees the equity injection of €200 million by the current shareholders in mid-2021 as an important step. ‘We are delighted with the commitment we received. Now for the next steps.’

Discussion at the national level

Doede welcomes the fact that Stedin made its voice clearly heard in the discussion on the Method Decision issued by the ACM. ‘That discussion, about how we organise the energy transition and at the same time our regular business, also needs to be conducted at the national level,’ says Doede. ‘And it may not be a bad thing if the discussion becomes fiercer. Cooperation is more important than ever. After all, we’re talking about the sustainable future of the Netherlands. As a country, we need to remove the obstacles to making the necessary progress. We have to do this before it's too late.’ In this light, Doede views the first capacity problems in our service area as a cause for concern. ‘That is something you don’t want, of course.’

Grid managers key in energy transition

Doede sees it as a trend that the role of grid managers will be crucial. ‘Due to our infrastructure, we have become key in the energy transition. Although we set clear priorities, as a grid manager we are naturally limited in our freedom of choice, in view of our public task. The law says: first come, first served. We process customers in order of receipt and act on a non-discriminatory basis. At the same time, we want to fulfil customers’ wishes and expectations. Stedin must be enabled to meet these challenges and to fulfil this key role,’ he says. ‘We are a company that wants to move forward resiliently. With the right resources, we can make significant advances as a country in improving sustainability.’ Having good technical personnel presents a challenge in this respect. ‘The best way is to train them ourselves. I am therefore very pleased with the results of our In-house training school. It is a positive sign that, through our initiative, we are able to provide so many people with good technical training. But we need even more.’ An outstanding highlight is the award to Stedin of the title ‘Most vibrant specialist company 2021’. That too shows that Stedin is an attractive organisation to work for. 

Changes on Board of Management

The changes on the Board of Management are of a different order than the energy transition. ‘Appointing new members of the Board of Management is a very important task for a Supervisory Board,’ says Doede. ‘And this year saw not just one, but two appointments: Koen Bogers as CEO and Trudy Onland as COO. As the Supervisory Board, we give serious thought to the leadership that is essential for Stedin at this moment. We consider whether a candidate fits well in the team, providing us with the right mix of qualities, knowledge and experience in the Board of Management. Everything matters, and the overall balance has to be right. Because even though financing is important, and laws and regulations are important, it’s the people who are key. As the Supervisory Board, we are very pleased with the appointments, and we have great confidence in this team.’

New schedule

A highlight of the year for Doede, therefore, was a two-day session with the Supervisory Board and Board of Management, including a business visit to DNWG/Enduris in Zeeland. ‘There, we visited the operation and set out our markers for the coming period.’ Doede sees formulating the strategy for 2023-2027 as a key task in 2022. ‘This will form our schedule for the coming years. Stedin is at a very important stage. I look forward to constructing a well-thought-out and supported plan together.’