Interview with Doede Vierstra, chair of the Supervisory Board

‘Decisive and Energetic - that is Stedin all over. It just couldn’t be more Rotterdam-like,’ says Doede Vierstra, chair of the Supervisory Board. And qualities such as decisiveness and energy are badly needed, he adds. ‘Consider the multitude of challenges that Stedin is facing, in the areas of finance, grid capacity, employees and equipment. I have every confidence that Stedin will be able to tackle each of those challenges. We’re already making serious progress.’

Doede Vierstra is ‘extremely pleased’ that the government has set aside €500 million for Stedin in the national budget. ‘That is a major sign of support and confidence, the fruit of our efforts over the past period in good cooperation with the shareholders. The government has now made this move and that is very good news.’ Doede also regards this contribution as an acknowledgement of Stedin’s changed potion. ‘While we used to move in the background, we now have a pivotal role in the energy transition. Our infrastructure is of crucial importance in this context. We were quick to take up this role, and that has not remained unnoticed.’

At the same time, says Doede, the government contribution also signifies a task for Stedin: ‘It helps enormously, but it doesn’t mean we can now lean back. On the contrary, now is the moment for us to go for it, together with local and provincial authorities and other stakeholders. This is absolutely essential to prepare the Netherlands for the energy transition, because we still have a long way to go.’ Doede points out that the collaboration is quite productive: ‘We have a lot of contacts with all municipalities within our service area, on topics such as planning, area development issues and their own ambitions when it comes to sustainability improvement. The support we receive is enormous, but we do not take it for granted. That’s why we actively maintain those intensive contacts.’ 

‘Stedin has a pivotal role in the energy transition’

Important steps have been made
Doede points out that again important steps have been made this year, for instance in connection with the new strategy. ‘There is now a strong focus, on the grid in particular. Rightly so, because the grid is the basis of our work. As regards congestion avoidance, we have set ourselves a very ambitious target. It sounds simple enough, and in fact the level of congestion in the Stedin area is actually relatively low. But it is in the interest of all of us - customers who purchase and feed in electricity, shareholders - to keep it that way. This presents us with quite a challenge.’ The main focus currently is on grid capacity. ‘This means that a number of other issues, such as hydrogen, have less priority for a while. We need to really focus our attention. We should first get the basics right - our grid capacity - and then we can consider a broader role for Stedin.’ 

Security of supply
The Supervisory Board is kept up to date on matters of content by various experts from within the organisation. This year, security of supply was at the centre of attention. ‘At the Supervisory Board we are obviously not at the controls of the company. That is the role of the Board of Management. But we do want to make sure the organisation is going in the right direction,’ says Doede. ‘That’s why we choose a special subject for in-depth discussion at each meeting. This year the focus is on the quality of our grids, network losses and shortages of staff and resources. And each time we’re quite impressed with the level of our specialists.’ Supervisory Board members also visit the shop floor themselves to stay in touch with employees and projects and their issues and concerns. ‘This year we had a lunch meeting with employees in Delft. It was great to see how passionate they are when talking about their work at Stedin.’ Supervisory Board members also visited a pipeline replacement project at Zoutmankade in The Hague. Two things struck Doede in particular: ‘There was a joint team made up of people from the client and the contractor, working so closely you could hardly make out who worked for which organisation. Second, it was great to see that shops and everything else remained open during the renovation - the street, shops, the tram line. It’s immensely clever the way they create flexibility, allowing people to continue their daily lives even during a major renovation of their street.’