Current issues related to economy, (responsible) investment, pension and income: every week, an APG expert gives a clear answer to the question of the week. This time: chief economist Thijs Knaap of APG talks about the effect of the overcrowded power grid on the investment climate in the Netherlands. His tentative conclusion: “We all need to become more agile.”
Charging stations for electric cars, the heat pump that cools and heats business premises and self-generation of electricity through solar panels; the kilowatt hours are flying around the Netherlands. But this “greening” has limitations; the power grid is under severe pressure and new connections are becoming scarcer. Limburg, Brabant and even parts of Noord Holland are only allowing new power connections very sparsely because of the overcrowded power grid. This is something that makes companies inventive. At Schiphol Trade Park, for example, fifteen concerns have joined forces, sharing the limited space on the power grid. That was a success. And although energy experts agree that these kinds of new and collective ways of using energy should prevent the Netherlands from locking up in the coming years because the power grid is full, there is no question of a large-scale rollout of such initiatives. It prompted Astrid Sixma, a lawyer at Kennedy Van der Laan involved in the initiative at Schiphol Trade Park, to make sharp statements in the FD. She argues that although creative forms of energy sharing are legally tricky for grid operators, there is simply no other way. “Otherwise, the full power grid will become too big a problem for the energy transition and the investment climate.” Does Knaap agree with her?
“First of all, investment climate is a political term, and very elastic. That’s why the World Bank has developed the B-Ready program, to objectively and based on a number of parameters, determine what the business and investment climate in 180 economies worldwide actually is,” Knaap said. One such parameter being measured, according to him, is utilities. “To what extent, for example, do high costs, the cumbersome permitting process or the time-consuming process of constructing gas, water and electricity utilities affect business production? It is one of the ten factors that count for the business climate, so it is quite significant. But this is particularly true for emerging countries. Right now, electricity facilities in Western countries are not high on the list of constraints.”
Challenges in the Netherlands
But that does not detract, Knaap says, from the fact that there are challenges, specifically in the Netherlands, that also affect the investment climate. Many companies are waiting for a connection, resulting in delays and uncertainty about implementing new plans such as sustainability, relocation or expansion. The monopoly position of grid operators is part of the problem in the Netherlands, Knaap believes. “Grid operators are leading what happens on the power grid by region, and that monopoly can have disadvantages: the product is expensive, waiting times are long and people are not open to innovations.” The latter aspect is completely different in a competitive market, Knaap knows. “Take telecommunications in the past, with PTT Telecom as the autocrat. The costs and waiting times for a new connection were enormous. With the advent of the mobile network, that changed completely; a new connection today is free and arranged within a day.”