In coversation with: Manon van Beek & Koen Bogers

What does the future look like for grid managers? What are the respective challenges for a nationwide grid manager and for a regional grid manager? And last but not least, when do they need each other? TenneT's CEO Manon van Beek and Stedin's CEO Koen Bogers discuss this. One thing is certain: together, we can accelerate.

In April of last year, the grid managers together with Gasunie presented the study II3050 to the outgoing Minister of Economic Affairs. It examined and described what the energy system will look like in 2030 and subsequently in 2050 and what this means for us as grid managers. ‘A wonderful product’, says Manon van Beek. ‘It shows that societal considerations and political choices determine the route to 2050. The greatest change in our energy management arises from generating electricity from sustainable sources that depend on the weather. As a result, electricity supply and demand cease to be linked. We need to bridge the gaps with new forms of flexibility in our energy system.’ ‘The study shows very clearly what the consequences of the energy transition are’, Koen confirms. ‘Put simply, streets will have to be opened up in many places. If we reach efficient choices in close consultation, that will save a great deal of inconvenience, time and money. These are major factors for social acceptance.’

Chicken and egg problem

But what do we do as grid managers; what is the correct order? ‘We need the government to break through the chicken and egg problem and to make choices for an integral approach’, says Manon. ‘What the grid managers would like is a systematic, efficient and above all phased roll-out of the infrastructure needed for the electrification. We simply cannot work everywhere at the same time. This has to done in phases and on the basis of an assessment framework.’ Koen is curious about Tennet's considerations for the purpose of prioritisation. Manon: 'We need help in the phasing of projects. We can only reach that phasing by means of prioritisation: which project is to be executed sooner, and which project can be carried out later? At present, customers are connected on a first-come, first-served basis. That is the implementation of the current legislation that prescribes this. The assessment framework must be endorsed by the government. Together with the national, regional and local public authorities, we must start prioritisation and phasing. What will we do first and what has to be done later?’ A structured approach is absolutely necessary, Koen believes.

Making better use of the grid

TenneT and Stedin also collaborate on grid congestion, including in Utrecht. Manon: ‘This announcement gave rise to a great deal of public noise. There is no “simple” solution; we therefore jointly support the call of the employers’ organisation VNO-NCW, for instance, to join forces – also in a Netbeheer Nederland context – and to look for solutions.’ Koen sees making better use of the grid as one of the solutions. 'If we match supply and demand more closely, that will also reduce the need for us to transmit electricity.’ The concept of the 'fast lane', in order to accelerate permit procedures, is another interesting idea, Manon believes. Koen agrees with this. ‘This is a huge challenge. That means that we also need quicker processes. Seven years for a permit application for building a medium-voltage station is very long. Acceleration is required if we want to achieve the climate goals. Permits are an important aspect of this.’

Recruiting technical talent

That acceleration can only take place if we also have enough technical talents. Manon: ‘We are looking for thousands of technical talents in the energy sector in the years ahead who can help us to put the required infrastructure in place. We are all fishing in the same pond. More financing is required for technical training programmes and graduation premiums for students. We are jointly committed to this.’ Koen is pleased in that connection with the cooperation in the Training & Development (T&D) fund, for example. ‘As far as I am concerned, in-house training, like we provide in our In-house training school, is a key way of attracting talent. If we can do that in more places, that will help enormously to ease the huge challenge we face.’