Thanks to the electricity connections between the Netherlands and neighbouring countries, our country can benefit from surpluses in neighbouring countries. Interconnectors and an integrated power grid are necessary in order to transport (temporary) electricity surpluses. These are some of the conclusions set out in the latest edition of the annual Security of Supply Monitoring Report, which was published today by electricity transmission operator TenneT.1
“TenneT will continue to develop links with markets in other countries, in order to maximize the benefits of the strong growth in renewable electricity production in our part of Europe, to compensate for fluctuations in the supply of green electricity generated from wind and solar energy, and to compensate for the loss in production capacity due to the decommissioning or mothballing of gas- and coal-fired power plants,” says TenneT CEO Mel Kroon. “National borders can only serve as obstacles to a successful transition to a renewable energy supply. We need closer collaboration between Northwest European TSOs as well as interconnectors and links between electricity systems in order to safeguard the security of electricity supplies, import cheap energy, and facilitate the transition to a more sustainable energy market.”
Interconnectors yield benefits for the Netherlands
The Dutch grid is already closely linked to the grids of other countries through onshore and subsea electricity connections (known as ‘interconnectors’). TenneT is planning to realize a further expansion of cross-border transmission capacity in the coming years. Mel Kroon: “These interconnectors have an economic life of at least 40 years and offer a relatively quick return on investment. They establish links between the electricity markets of different countries. Interconnectors benefit everyone in the Netherlands, since they enable us to import cheaper renewable electricity, or export it when prices are higher in another market.”
The BritNed cable between the Netherlands and the UK (capacity: 1,000 MW, taken into operation in 2011) is an example of an interconnector which is mainly used to export electricity. In contrast, the NorNed cable between the Netherlands and Norway (capacity: 700 MW, taken into operation in 2008) imports renewably generated electricity for most of the time.
The Netherlands’ maximum import/export capacity currently totals 6,000 MW. TenneT plans to expand this capacity by 3,400 MW to reach 9,400 MW by 2022, an increase of 57 percent. The following projects are being undertaken to achieve this aim:
- Doetinchem-Wesel: 1,500 MW (onshore interconnector between the Netherlands and Germany)
- COBRAcable: 700 MW (subsea cable between the Netherlands and Denmark)
- Expansion of the capacity of the existing Meeden-Diele interconnector by up to 500 MW, depending on market conditions and electricity flows in Northwest Europe
- Expansion of the import/export capacity between the Netherlands and Belgium by up to 700 MW, depending on the market conditions and electricity flows in Northwest Europe
The actually available capacity at any given time depends on the locations of the units generating electricity at that time.
Supply of electricity generated by conventional power plants decreasing
Total thermal production capacity will decrease in the coming years due to the decommissioning and conservation of gas- and coal-fired power plants. Operational thermal production capacity is expected to decrease by over 5,000 MW during the period until 2022, largely due to the closing of coal-fired power plants (2,700 MW) as well as the ‘mothballing’ of gas-fired power plants (1,900 MW). At present, the operational thermal production capacity totals nearly 25,000 MW, but this is expected to fall by approx. 20 percent to 20,000 MW in 2022.
Substantial increase in renewable production capacity (wind and solar energy)
Wind and solar generating capacity is expected to rise dramatically, from 4,200 MW today to over 15,000 MW in 2022. This corresponds to an increase of no less than 360%. However, the growing share of wind and solar energy will not result in a substantial improvement of the security of supply given the inevitable fluctuations in supply due to weather conditions. Local storage, demand response, and closer cross-border integration willprovide the flexibility to maintain the security of supply at its current high level.
In the table above, the domestic supply has been subdivided into operational and non-operational capacity. Non-operational capacity refers to conserved or ‘mothballed’ capacity. The operational capacity has been subdivided into capacity from generation sources (solar/photovoltaic, hydropower and wind energy) and thermal capacity. Click to enlarge the table.
The planned investments in large-scale subsidized renewable electricity production, the unfavourable market position of gas-fired power plants, and the development of capacity markets in France, the United Kingdom and possibly Belgium are resulting in uncertainty regarding investments in thermal generation capacity. Because of these factors, it is unclear whether and when further production capacity will be taken out of operation. It is not inconceivable that more production capacity will be decommissioned or mothballed in the coming years as the operating time and therefore the cost-effectiveness of existing, mainly gas-fired production capacity comes under increasing pressure due to the further increase of renewable production capacity in the Northwest European market. Producers may announce their intention to decommission obsolete production capacity shortly before that decision is actually implemented.
On the other hand, the Dutch grid has a significant amount of relatively modern mothballed production capacity that can be quickly redeployed if necessary
Development of capacity markets
The results of this monitoring exercise do not give TenneT cause to advise the government to take any new measures in order to safeguard the future security of supply in the Netherlands. However, TenneT does believe that the current debate on the possible development and introduction of capacity markets in neighbouring countries should be closely monitored, in view of the possible consequences for the development of the Dutch market. Capacity markets in which power plant operators receive subsidies for keeping electricity production capacity in reserve can cause market disturbances with respect to future investments in demand response, storage capacity and conventional (thermal) electricity production capacity, thus presenting obstacles to innovation and efficiency improvements.
The Security of Supply Monitoring Report may be downloaded here (in dutch)
1. The purpose of the Monitoring Report is to provide insight into the expected development of the domestic supply of electricity in relation to the domestic demand over a 7-year period going forward. The report examines the extent to which the available domestic capacity is sufficient to cover domestic demand. In addition, a regional analysis has been performed (at the European level) to examine the possibilities for using cross-border electricity exchanges to compensate for possible future shortages in the Netherlands.
2. Definitively taking production capacity out of operation, e.g. by demolishing a generating unit.
3. Provisionally taking production capacity out of operation, also known as ‘mothballing’.