Overloaded electricity grid causes problems: ‘Permits must be faster’

The demand for electricity has increased rapidly in recent years. Due to the energy transition, companies and households are exchanging gas and coal for electricity. In addition, we are installing more and more solar panels to be able to supply electricity back to the power network.

Emergency building may not be connected to the power network

The current cables simply cannot handle that greater capacity, says spokesperson Eefje van Gorp of high-voltage grid operator Tennet. They notice this at primary school de Havenrakkers in Broek op Waterland, among others.

“The renovation of the school has been in the works for years,” says director Peter Bakker. “The renovation was already postponed once due to material shortages and then came corona. Now we thought we could finally start.” But at a meeting, the director was told they might have to wait another six years.

“The emergency building in which we would temporarily stay during the renovation could not be connected to the electricity network. As a director, of course, you never take that into account.”

Congested regions

The problems faced by primary schools can be found in more than one place. Grid operators such as Alliander have been indicating for some time that the network is in danger of becoming overloaded. The website of network operator Liander (part of Alliander) provides an overview of all places in their network that are currently overloaded.

In places like this, the high-voltage network cannot handle even more consumers. “That has to do with peak moments in energy, for example,” says spokesperson Daan Schut of Alliander. “When the sun shines, everyone supplies energy back to the network at the same time. That must be able to handle such a peak.”

This is not only the result of the energy transition. “It is a major change in our energy supply,” explains Schut.

Extra high voltage, extra cables

“In the old principle, it was centrally controlled with a number of large coal and gas plants. Now you are moving to a system in which much more energy is generated locally. That also requires something different from the cables that are now in place. cables are being extended.”

The same applies to high voltage cables. For example, Tennet is currently working on the construction of a large high-voltage substation near Wijk aan Zee. “The offshore wind farms can then be connected to this high-voltage station. That power can then be distributed further over the network,” says spokesman Van Gorp.

When the high-voltage station is ready and the wind farms are connected to it, it will be able to supply enough energy for about 2.1 million households. But that electricity does not just enter the living room of the users, says Van Gorp, and there is not suddenly more space on the grid.

“In our case too, all that extra power has to go through cables. So we will have to lay a lot of extra cables.” At the moment, however, it is going slowly. “There is plenty of construction going on, but it usually takes about six years before a permit is passed. Then there is a construction time of two years on top of that.”

Faster permits and more staff

Tennet therefore wants the permit procedure to run better. It also needs to be made clearer where cables may be laid. “For example, a high-voltage cable may not be close to homes because of the electromagnetic field. Municipalities now often use land for new homes. So there can be no extra cable. While those new houses must be able to be connected to a power network again.”

In addition, more should be invested in technical training, especially in the MBO. Because just like many other technical sectors, Tennet also runs into a personnel shortage among technicians. But the grid operators are also looking for shorter-term solutions.

Not everything back on the power network

“We have to adjust our way of dealing with energy,” says Schut van Alliander. “Actually, when you have solar panels, it must be a reflex that you switch on the washing machine when the sun is shining. Then you immediately use that energy.”

According to Van Gorp of Tennet, batteries as storage can also be a solution. “We are in favor of making a battery mandatory at solar parks. But it can also help at home with people with solar panels. Then not everyone with solar panels has to return it to the electricity network, but it can be stored at home for when the sun does not shine. .”

Exactly the latter also plays a role at the primary school in Broek op Waterland. “According to Liander, a solution has now been found for the emergency building,” says a somewhat relieved school director. “But it is not yet entirely clear whether the new building can be connected to the electricity network. For example, we supply back with solar panels, it is still a bit questionable whether that is possible.”

And then the rest of the Netherlands

The rest of the Netherlands may just have to deal with the same as the school. According to Schut, this overload problem could last for years. “The crowds that are now in many places will be solved in six years, but new places will arise. I expect this to emerge in varying areas until 2030.”

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