The trends and developments signal that the drive towards a more sustainable energy system is accelerating. And the pace will continue to quicken. Our stakeholders expect us to make a substantial contribution towards the new energy landscape. To this end, we have a four-pillar strategy.
1. Support for customers in making choices
Customers are gaining more and more influence over the energy system. That is why we are offering them incentives to make choices that are not just good for them, but also for our energy system as a whole. More specifically, we need to make it attractive for customers to buy energy in times of abundance, sell energy in times of scarcity and refrain from using the energy network when energy consumption is high. To this end, it is necessary that customers can decide for every 15-minute or hourly time slot whether to use, sell or store energy. This is one reason why we started offering smart meters to our customers some time ago. But we are also working on solutions to help customers exchange energy among themselves.
2. New open networks
To create a new energy system at the lowest possible social costs, we must develop new infrastructures. It is crucial to ensure that these new infrastructures are accessible (‘open’) to everyone under equal conditions. Universal access makes these networks more affordable, as the costs can be shared among more users. Added to this, facilitating the energy market in this respect forms an important element of our corporate social responsibility. By ‘open’ we mean that customers are given the same type of connection as their neighbour and at the same price. They can choose whom they buy their energy from or whom they sell it to.
Our existing electricity and gas grids are not equipped for the effects of the energy transition. We are embracing digitisation to make our existing networks as future-proof as possible. ICT allows us to quickly detect and even prevent faults, make more targeted investments in networks and offer customers the data they need to make sensible energy choices. This is how we can restrict the need for network upgrades.
4. Excellent network management
Our energy networks are among the most reliable in the world. Thanks to efficient management and economies of scale, we are keeping the existing networks affordable. We also want to further increase the comfort our customers experience when we are carrying out work on their behalf. The trust of our customers is important, both to perform our traditional daily work and to realise our new network ambitions.
Our core task is clear: keeping the lights burning and homes warm, today and in the sustainable tomorrow. To keep pace with the accelerating energy transition, we need to make investments and set priorities. At the start of 2018, we sharpened our strategic focus on a number of key themes:
Completion of work package
Surging customer demand combined with the severe shortage of skilled technicians has made it increasingly difficult to complete our work on time. To mitigate this problem, we are focusing even more on the recruitment, training and retention of technicians in critical positions. In addition, we are also contracting out more work and pursuing operational improvements such as more reliable planning and forecasting, more efficient processes and even better collaboration.
Energy transition portfolio
The energy system is changing as a result of the energy transition. This could jeopardise the reliability, affordability and accessibility of energy. That is why we are seeking to create and actually implement innovations and smart solutions that will reduce the work on and investments in the networks within the next few years. In addition, we are working on alternative sustainable ways of using our gas grids, such as green gas and hydrogen gas.
The Netherlands is aiming to be a carbon-neutral society by no later than 2050. This involves switching about 2.6 million homes in 1,000 residential neighbourhoods in our service area over to a sustainable heating system without natural gas. To achieve this, we are seeking to cooperate with municipalities, housing associations, citizens, renewable heat suppliers and other local stakeholders to help them make district-by-district decisions about a new sustainable energy system. We are constructing heating networks as one of the alternatives for natural gas grids.
Cost-aware and efficient operations
The energy transition and growing economy call for extra investments in our networks. We are reducing our costs across the organisation in order to free up funds for these investments. For this reason, we are looking critically at what is really necessary to keep doing our work well, but in smarter and more efficient ways. In 2018, we started up a long-term cost-saving programme for this purpose.
Knowledge and tools for customers and network colleagues
We use our knowledge in an intelligent way for the benefit of others. Customers and our network colleagues ask this of us. This also unlocks extra sources of income that can help us meet the financial challenges of the energy transition, for instance by renting out transformers (Kenter), giving advice to business customers (Qirion Energy Consulting) or offering telecoms or software solutions (Alliander Telecom) that we have developed for ourselves to other network operators.