What’s the problem?

 

Since mid-2022, the Netherlands has been experiencing an energy squeeze. In many areas the power network is at capacity and the public grid has either been closed for new connections or limited access is available (see map). Companies planning to expand or build new manufacturing facilities in these areas cannot rely on electricity to power their activities. Even companies with connections which exceed their current needs will not be able to increase peak power supply. 

In the Amsterdam area, a client of Royal HaskoningDHV is extending its site. The company has been told additional power for the extension will not be available until 2027. Faced with a situation where the plant will be finished but there will be no power to run it, they turned to us for help. We explored a range of alternatives including technological solutions and local power production with gas engines - which was not possible due to permitting.The problem was solved by obtaining a temporary grid connection from another service point. 

Why is the energy squeeze happening? 

High prices and gas shortages arising from the Russian invasion of Ukraine have accelerated a switch away from gas. This switch was already under way as part of society’s response to the climate emergency. The effect has been to increase electricity demand. At the same time, the grid network is carrying extra transport from small-scale renewable energy suppliers, such as wind, solar or biomass plants. Taken together, these developments have escalated peak demand and the grid cannot be expanded quickly enough to keep pace. 

A creative and multidisciplinary approach can bring surprising solutions and insights, providing efficiency and sustainability benefits in the process.

Toine Vos

Senior Consultant Industrial Automation and Control Systems

Solutions are likely to involve a variety of interventions tailored to your situation. We recommend a three-pronged approach (visualised in the tree image, left) involving energy reduction, optimisation and alternative technologies.

  1. Explore energy savings and peak demand reductions

    By bringing down peak demand, you can potentially use more electricity and avoid the need for additional supply. First of all, explore energy consumption savings opportunities. Secondly, identify whether it is possible to schedule operations during the night or at weekends to flatten your energy curve.

    Batteries systems smooth power demand across your site, providing emergency power, peak-shaving and other benefits. This is supported by the improvement of capabilities of batteries storage systems over the last years. Peak shaving is particularly suitable if your production process load allows batteries to charge during periods of lower energy consumption. Battery storage helps limit or avoid the use of emergency generators.

    A semiconductor factory has been expanded and upgraded to help meet global demand for microchips. The increased production was expected to need additional power supply. However, by rearranging operations, sufficient power savings were realised enabling new requirements to be met through the existing connection. Now that the new facilities are operating, Royal HaskoningDHV is working with our client to further improve efficiency using a monitoring and control system.

  2. Optimise your use of energy

    Look for opportunities to reuse heat from processes and chillers by directing it to other processes or as a source for a heat pump to heat buildings. Review cooling methods. Direct cooling systems - in which the cooling medium is in contact with the substance to be cooled - are generally more energy efficient. However, in some circumstances, indirect cooling with chilled water can require less energy.

    Solutions will depend on many factors, so they need to be tailored to your own process. Automated control systems to optimise flow rates can also improve the efficiency of chillers and heat pumps, reducing power requirements. Another option to explore are adiabatic humidifiers. These maintain air humidity and temperature to required standards and consume less than 10% of the energy required by steam systems.

    A design for heat recovery from a refrigeration installation at Wageningen University & Research has been verified by Royal HaskoningDHV. An extra heat exchanger placed in front of the condenser recovers heat released in the cooling process. This heat is then delivered to the university’s thermal energy storage system for use on campus.

  3. Generate your own energy
    Can you meet your energy needs independently from the grid? Solar panels, perhaps combined with battery storage, are a quick and relatively low-cost addition to production sites. Heat can also contribute to energy generation, for example by regaining heat from waste water treatment activities. Don’t overlook wind energy.

    Although this might not be the simplest solution, it is a sustainable one in the long term. The government has subsidies to encourage companies to make the transition to net zero. These can support a positive business case for investment.

    Worst-case scenarios in the energy squeeze can unfortunately not be excluded. To preserve business continuity, (bio-) diesel generators or hydrogen fuel cell solutions may be needed temporarily. They require adequate preparation. Are environmental licences up to date? Can logistics for fuel transport be arranged on location?

Move forward with confidence

Royal HaskoningDHV’s quick scan process by a multidisciplinary team of experts is developing unique, creative solutions for companies impacted by the energy squeeze. This 360-degree assessment of your situation paired with costed solutions provides the practical insight you need to proceed with confidence.

STEP 1: Analysis Energy consumption reports and power contract figures are collected, and energy feeds surveyed to define starting points.

STEP 2: Brainstorm Multi-disciplinary experts working with your team identify options and impacts which are assessed at technical, organisational and risk levels.

STEP 3: Business case Investment, access to subsidy and payback are analysed for each chosen option.

STEP 4: Report The assessment, options and associated business cases are brought together to inform decisions on the best way forward.

 

Read our expert article on this topic (PDF)