Pillar 1: support 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 at peak times.

Alliander's role in energy generation and storage

It is Alliander's task to keep the infrastructure reliable for everyone at the lowest possible costs, and simultaneously to optimise the energy system to accommodate local energy initiatives. On our journey towards the new energy system based on fluctuating sources such as solar and wind, local generation and storage will play a prominent role. The emergence of new storage technologies - based on electric vehicle batteries, for instance - is therefore a vital development. Alliander does not produce energy itself, but connects supply and demand and helps to make the best social choices for advancing the new energy system. In this context, we participate in pilots together with other parties, such as suppliers and consumers, in order to learn practical lessons. One such pilot is the neighbourhood battery in Rijsenhout. 

Rising number of renewable generation customers

In the past years, we have seen a steady increase in the number of customers generating their own renewable energy. This trend continued in 2017, with the number of registered connections with an active feed-in installation in our service area jumping from 144,200 to 189,816 (+ 32%).

Customers with renewable generation

As more and more customers generate renewable energy, its share in the overall energy supply constantly grows in the areas where Alliander is active. The wind turbines and solar panels in the provinces of Gelderland, Flevoland, Noord-Holland, Friesland and parts of Zuid-Holland supply sufficient energy to provide some two million households with renewable electricity. At the end of 2017, the share of renewable generation in the areas where Alliander is active amounted to:

  • Solar energy: electricity for 210,000 households

  • Combined heat and power (CHP): electricity for 840,000 households

  • Wind energy: electricity for 865,000 households

  • 3,174 e-charging stations for electric cars

  • Green gas: gas for 16,000 households

The increased generation of local renewable wind and solar power has a growing impact on our electricity network. It can lead to power peaks that local networks are not always able to handle. The availability of electricity is also less predictable, as solar and wind energy is prone to fluctuations. Our challenge is to better match supply and demand without additional investments and work.

Dilemma: who pays the bill for removing gas connections?

In the coming decades, some seven million homes must be weaned off natural gas. Large-scale innovations always follow the same pattern: there are early adopters, followers and late adopters. But sooner or later, millions of households will be confronted with these additional charges. Households that have their gas connection removed now pay the full cost themselves. In the year under review, there was a debate about who should pay the bill for this operation. Some argue that the costs should be spread across all Dutch households. Network operators explicitly encourage households to save CO2 emissions. We want to make this as cheap and easy as possible, on the understanding that the consumer pays. If we, as a society, want to adapt the rules, we must do so with a view to the future. This, after all, is not just about the costs for a small group, but the need to keep energy affordable for millions of people living in the Netherlands in the decades ahead. During the parliamentary debate about the Energy Transition Bill (VEt), a proposal to remove gas connections free of charge was rejected.

Neighbourhood battery in Rijsenhout

Flexibility is central to the energy transition. To test this aspect, we take part in multiple pilots. One such pilot concerned the placement of the first-ever neighbourhood battery in the Netherlands. By using local renewable energy first before resorting to more distant sources, neighbourhoods can increasingly meet their own energy demand. The battery can also provide a solution for the growing energy surplus from residential solar panels. By storing this renewable energy in a battery for later use, the load on the electricity network can be reduced. Batteries may thus be a good alternative for laying thicker cables. Together with Tegenstroom, Lyv Smart Living and Liander, 35 households in the village of Rijsenhout (Haarlemmermeer) are testing this unique battery. We, as the network operator, are particularly interested in finding out whether the battery can lower the burden on the local electricity network.

Participants in the Rijsenhout pilot will share the neighbourhood battery for a year. With the aid of smart meters, the in-house Lyv energy management system records each household's energy surplus and stores it in the battery for later use. Data from the smart meter help to determine how the solar energy can be used as efficiently as possible. Based on the household's actual consumption and the amount of generated energy, the system determines whether energy can best be used immediately, kept in storage or fed into the network. And when a neighbourhood resident needs electricity, the system supplies his remaining portion of energy back to their home. The app-based energy management system helps residents save energy and records the surpluses when more solar energy is generated than consumed. In this way, residents make maximum use of their own energy and reduce the burden on the network.

Energy exchange platform

In 2017, Alliander’s subsidiary EXE launched the first independent transaction platform for the direct exchange of electricity between generators and consumers. In the new renewable energy system, generators and consumers increasingly want to be in control of their own energy capacity. This calls for a platform that can process decentralised transactions. The new transaction platform, named ENTRNCE, gives commercial generators and consumers, service providers and energy suppliers access to the market. ENTRNCE thus brings the decentralised energy market of the future a step closer.

Amsterdam is preparing for the cars of the future

Another flexibilisation pilot took place in Amsterdam. In 2017, the municipality of Amsterdam carried out a successful trial with a new method for charging e-vehicles, where the charging speed is adjusted to the supply and demand on the electricity network. The charging speed is faster in off-peak hours and slightly slower at peak times. Besides preparing the city for the next generation of electric cars with larger batteries, this innovative charging method also paves the way for the more efficient use of renewable energy in the future. Flexible charging – also known as smart charging – not only prevents extreme peak loads on the energy network, but also opens up opportunities for optimal utilisation of renewable energy in the future. For instance, solar energy generated during the day can be stored directly in the batteries of electric cars. Our e-charging stations pilot will continue in 2018. The pilot comprises 52 public charging posts, each with two charging points (i.e. 104 charging points), in four Amsterdam districts (Centre, West, New West and South). The charging data collected by these posts is compared with the data from 50 standard e-charging stations that are used as a reference. Based on historical data, we expect 1,000 to 1,500 unique users to fill up their cars at these charging points.

Smart meter: the progress so far

One crucial link in the creation of a more intelligent infrastructure is the smart meter. In 2017, the smart meter offering was accelerated to 2,500 addresses per day. We thus achieved our target of 536,000 addresses for 2017. The smart meter helps customers make their own energy choices. The aim is to offer all our customers a smart meter by 2020. We are doing this in close cooperation with our partners, such as contractors.
The smart meter attracted a lot of media publicity in 2017. A number of smart gas meters placed in the period from June to August 2016 no longer meet the specifications. Though these meters are safe, the network operators decided to replace this type. The replacement operation will be completed in 2018.