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How should businesses deal with grid congestion?

Compared to other European countries, the Netherlands owns the highest amount of solar panels per capita. Last year, the number of solar panels in some provinces in the Netherlands increased by as much as 40%. This may mean that the demand for fossil fuels and the amount of CO2 emissions associated with them, will decrease, which would be a nice step in the energy transition. However, solar power requires a lot of capacity from our electricity grid, which is not yet built for this amount of solar power. This means that the grid is becoming increasingly overloaded. Trade association Netbeheer Nederland even calls on people to use more electricity during the day.

Energy storage can solve grid congestion

Wait a minute - using more electricity? Aren't we in the middle of an energy crisis and an energy transition? It seems like the world has turned upside down: electricity prices are still sky-high and the government has ambitious plans in terms of reducing CO2 emissions. But, as it turns out, our energy network is not ready for the integration of large amounts of sustainably generated electricity. In several places in the Netherlands, the maximum capacity of the electricity network is regularly reached, both in terms of consumption and feed-in. There is grid scarcity and grid congestion. Liander, a Dutch utility company, says that these problems will not be solved before 2030. What do we do until then, especially if we strive to operate energy neutral as a country by 2050?

What is grid congestion?

According to Netbeheer Nederland, the power grid is not designed for the large amount of solar power that is currently being generated, nor the use of the grid as a 'large free battery'. If the voltage on the cable becomes too high, the inverter intervenes and switches it off, in order for solar power temporarily not being transferred to the grid. This means that despite the investment you made, your solar panels simply won't operate at that point. In addition, Dutch utility company Enexis says that there is currently 'virtually no space left' on its network for new, large solar projects. On the other hand, there is room for households. Suppose your company wishes to install solar panels and the energy supplier says “no sorry, we are full”. Benevolent companies are thus victims of this grid problem.

At the same time, bottlenecks on the electricity grid with regard to the consumption of energy arose as well, at various times last year. The maximum capacity was reached several times. This mostly applied to customers with a connection for large-scale consumption, such as companies. The network operator is looking into the possibilities of requesting large-scale consumers in certain areas to purchase less electricity at peak times. This is confusing. Are we being asked to use more power, or less? Or should the grid be adjusted as quick as possible?

What has caused gird congestion?

Companies are making an effort by, for example, investing in solar panels, but the much-needed adjustments to the grid are progressing slowly. Most of the current cables will have to be replaced with cables that are able to carry much more current. Netbeheer Nederland indicates that efforts are being made throughout the country to upgrade and expand the electricity grid. In 2022, 'thousands of kilometers' of new cables will be laid and hundreds of new transformer houses will be installed.

Grid operators encounter various problems in this respect. A large investment is to be made in order to adapt the grid. The implementation takes a lot of time. This is partially due to long processes for permits. It has also been difficult to find technical personnel to carry out the work.

How can we solve grid congestion?

Grid operators are calling for 'incentives' to stimulate the self-storage of self-generated power, in order for this power to be used independently. Energy storage is capturing and storing energy generated at one point in time for use at a later point in time. This enables more efficient and reliable management of energy supply and demand, further strengthening the integration of renewable energy sources into the electricity grid and increasing grid stability. There are several methods for this, including the use of batteries, flywheels, pumped hydro storage and thermal storage.

Batteries have the ability to absorb and deliver large amounts of energy at a rapid rate. This makes it possible to store electricity at times when there is a surplus and to use it later when demand is larger. This is therefore a flexible way of energy management. This also makes energy use cheaper: batteries are able to store energy during periods when prices are low and release it during peak times when prices are high, reducing overall energy costs. In addition, it leads to smaller conversion losses, unlike other storage methods.

SmartGrid develops and produces innovative solutions for the storage of renewable energy. The organization combines expertise with local production and ambitious sustainability criteria. SmartGrid does this tapping into their over 10 years of experience in battery systems.

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