Grid integration
Grid integration 3 min. reading time

Electric grid overcrowded. Now what?

The limits of our power grid have been reached. Add to that the fact that to achieve our climate goals, we are electrifying more and more, and you understand: we have a problem. The Dutch electricity grid is overcrowded. Large customers and sustainable projects are struggling to get a connection. But what is the real situation? And are there any solutions? You can read about it in this article.

This is how our grid works

In the Netherlands, the electricity grid is designed to guarantee a constant flow of electricity. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year. To make that happen, the supply and demand of energy must always be in balance.

We start at the basics. The high-voltage grid transports power from where it is generated (a solar farm, for example) through the medium-voltage grid to where it is used (the neighbor's coffee maker). So all these grids must be and remain in balance.

The net is full

When more electricity is demanded or offered than there is grid capacity, our grid gets out of balance. Traffic jams occur. We call this grid congestion: our grid is then too full. The grid congestion problem in the Netherlands is mainly on our high and medium voltage grid.

Grid Specialist Wannes Devillé: "We use the term full to indicate that supply and demand are not in balance. This means that a 'full' grid is a snapshot in time." A snapshot with serious consequences: for a (larger) connection you end up in the queue. Especially large energy consumers and providers suffer from our overfull grid.

Capacity map of off-take electricity grid | Netbeheer Nederland

Bypassing grid congestion

A lot of work is being done on grid reinforcement. A physical expansion and reinforcement of capacity. 'Just' by installing extra cables and transformers. But our consumption and supply of energy is rising faster than cables can be laid. So more solutions are needed.

"This impasse must be broken," believes Wannes Devillé, Sr. Grid Specialist at Novar. "We have to bridge the temporary lack of capacity. There lies a joint challenge." The solution can mainly be found in making our electricity grid more flexible. So that we can respond more easily to peak moments of supply and demand. There are various ways for companies to bypass grid congestion - and "help" the grid:

  1. Steer your energy consumption: We can adjust energy consumption according to the availability of electricity. For example, by turning appliances on when there is a lot of solar or wind energy available. Or by temporarily turning off appliances to avoid peak loads. This can be done with an energy management system.
  2. Store your electricity: Batteries and other storage methods can store a surplus of energy and release it precisely when there is a shortage.
  3. Convert electricity to other forms of energy: You can also convert surplus electricity into other forms of energy. Like heat or hydrogen. This is called conversion. As a company, this makes you less dependent on the supply of energy from renewable sources.
  4. Consume less when the grid is overloaded: With a capacity limiting contract (CBC), you flexibly adjust your electricity consumption based on the available capacity on the grid. In doing so, you help the grid operator. In exchange for financial compensation, you temporarily reduce your energy consumption at times of congestion.
  5. Share your grid connection: With 'cable pooling' you can combine generation from different energy sources on one grid connection. For example, solar panels and a wind turbine. This allows you to make optimal use of the available grid capacity. It also saves on connection costs and grid operator costs.
  6. Deliver electricity directly to a large consumer: With a direct line, you deliver real-time generated electricity to a large consumer nearby. That way you don't have to use the general electricity grid. And so you can get rid of your energy.  
  7. Collaborate with other companies: With a group contract, you and several companies enter into a joint contract power with the grid operator. This is also called an "energy hub. A matter of smart management and efficient use.

The future

Thinking in non-standard solutions pays off. Like realizing a Closed Distribution System. Such solutions require a lot of cooperation. Technically and legally, much is possible. But that brings financial, legal and policy challenges. This is demonstrated by the Hollandia Vloeivelden project. Mark Mijnen, Specialist Energy & Portfolio at Avebe: "Financially and legally it was a very challenging project. For example, with regard to liability and the transport agreement. We had to work that out well together."

Grid congestion is here to stay for a while. Fortunately, with the right measures you can get a grip on your energy management. Moreover, in this way you can also contribute to a reliable and sustainable electricity network for now and in the future.

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