Grid integration
Grid integration 4 min. reading time

Dutch electricity grid is overcrowded Part I/III.

In Part I of this triptych, Wannes Devillé explains how the Dutch electricity grid works. What are the challenges, the problems but especially the solutions of and for our electricity grid? And what about our grid and the energy transition? Read more here.

The Netherlands is busy meeting the goals of the Climate Agreement for the generation of renewable energy. So busy, in fact, that the electricity grid cannot handle the large amount of green power coming from solar and wind farms. A serious consequence of the full power grid is that municipalities are no longer issuing permits for the construction of wind and solar farms, thus failing to meet their own climate goals. "This impasse must be broken," believes Wannes Devillé, Sr. Grid Specialist at Novar. "We need to bridge the temporary lack of capacity. That's where our common challenge lies."

A few years ago, it was still quite normal and relatively easy for a solar or wind farm to apply for a grid connection. This connection was then neatly constructed on time by the regional grid operators. Now, in many regions, this is a thing of the past. Due to the increasing demand for grid connections - and thus capacity on the electricity grid - grid capacity has become a scarce commodity in large parts of the country. This is seriously jeopardizing the energy transition of the Netherlands and its municipalities.

We look ahead

Novar, meanwhile, has set up a system that allows us to make information about the power grid transparent to all internal stakeholders. "In this system we incorporate all plans for grid expansions," Wannes explains. "With this, we are not looking at the current moment, but mainly ahead; at the situation in 4 or 5 years." So you have to anticipate, he believes. "Because you don't want a project with a permit that you end up missing out on, because later it turns out that there is insufficient capacity. However, the situation the other way around is not desirable either. Because when you commit capacity to the grid before you have a permit, you block that piece for others. That way you create a brake on the entire energy transition, and that is very sensitive."

Challenges regional energy transition

One of the major challenges is the fact that the permitting process is inhibited because municipalities often do not want to grant permits if there is no grid capacity available. "We understand that municipalities are careful about this and don't want to permit projects that may not be realized," Wannes responds. "But it is important not just to look at the current situation; that way you delay the energy transition by several years, and we don't have that time. So we have to solve this problem together now."

According to Wannes, part of the problem can be solved by going along with the Transport Indication system as a municipality. "This is in fact already built into the subsidy system around the SDE+/++ with the requirement of a positive Transport Indication as a kind of protection," he explains. "No subsidy is given to a project that theoretically cannot be connected. Actually, it starts even earlier, because in the permit process you are already required to show how you will get rid of your project's power. So in terms of timeline, there is a discrepancy between that."

New approach to grid capacity

Current facts say nothing about when you will actually need the grid, according to Wannes. "What matters is whether there will be grid capacity in a few years; not right now." He says it would help tremendously if municipalities looked a little further ahead. "Because there are major expansions coming for large parts of the country around 2027. That's common knowledge."

It would therefore be very useful if municipalities issued permits before wind and solar farms were built, Wannes believes. "That way you ensure that the capacity that becomes available can be used immediately. If the permit process is not started until that capacity is there, then you have stations that can be used less efficiently for two or three years, because the parks that could connect to them could not get a permit at the time. This makes it difficult for municipalities to meet the Regional Energy Strategy (RES). This change requires an open mind among municipalities, including in consultation with grid operators: this is an opportunity to flesh out energy transition at the regional level in order to achieve the Paris goals."

Non-standard solutions

In addition, the full power grid also creates another problem: solar and wind farms often can no longer get standard connections. According to Wannes, this will require Novar to adopt more and more non-standard connection solutions for their projects at least until 2027. "There is already a large area where everything is on red alert," he says. "In order to get permits for new projects, we do now have to solve it in this non-standard way. This is because the next really big expansion steps in the electricity grid from Tennet and the regional grid operators are unfortunately still some time away."

Novar is looking at what grid connections are possible earlier and earlier in the process. "There are several solutions. The first solution is the standard connection to a grid operator. This solution is the easiest and is still our preference. But if projects cannot discharge their power in the regular way, we have several non-standard solutions."

Applying the non-standard solutions should become a lot easier, Wannes believes. "That would help the entire power grid. You are now taking on a lot of financial and legal work when you choose these non-standard methods instead of the standard method."

Case examples grid solutions

In areas with limited - or no - capacity, using connections from nearby wind farms, or connecting to a Closed Distribution System (GDS) that may include dual use of solar, wind or other technologies are possible solutions. "These solutions allow for more efficient and smarter use of already existing (grid) infrastructure. We will tell more about this in the next article."

So these solutions are not the standard now, but Novar thinks that will change in the near future. "We think these solutions will become more and more common. This is regular, legal and technically feasible. New contract forms are also part of this. In addition, it is important that financiers become familiar with these possibilities. This is another reason why it should be applied more often. We will only get this done if we work well together and share knowledge. We really need this experience."

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