Stedin and other network operators in the Netherlands are currently undergoing a major change – possibly the biggest in their existence. This is according to Marko Kruithof, manager Sustainability and Renewal for Dutch network operator, Stedin, who will be attending the upcoming European Utility Week.
In an exclusive interview with Engerati, Kruithof explains that their transition to a decentralized energy facility is based on what their customers’ future needs will be. He adds, “The role of the traditional network operator will no longer fit with the demand of an energy market in which customers will ask for customized solutions instead of the ‘one size fits all’ world we leave behind.”
In its commitment to creating a new market, Stedin is one of the founding partners and participants of the Universal Smart Energy Framework (USEF) foundation. [Engerati-The Flexible Power Alliance Network and Universal Smart Energy Framework]. “The foundation supports the development of a new future market control mechanism and it provides a reference for implementation to make it work,” says Kruithof.
Stedin has also developed its own roadmap which will help steer the necessary changes. This will help the internal organization and infrastructure to synchronize with the new market, says Kruithof.
“We want our customers to be fans”
“We want our customers to become real fans of Stedin,” says Kruithof, “We aim to do this by being the customer’s strategic partner in energy matters. We want to deliver simple and fast solutions for the customer and we want to help them improve their energy efficiency levels.”
Stedin’s aim is to become the customer’s active strategic partner and customized solution provider in the energy transition. “We want our customers to enjoy a safe, affordable and reliable energy supply, with a balanced combination of traditional and sustainable solutions,” explains Kruithof.
Stedin is helping customers to become prosumers by preparing the electricity grid and market for them. “A pre-designed grid that anticipates a two-directional energy flow will make it easy to integrate solar energy onto the grid. We also have pilot projects where we develop propositions using electricity storage to make it possible for prosumers to maximize the use of self-produced electricity. Stedin is not making extra profit out of these activities because we see these activities as a part of our role in society,” explains Kruithof.
Stedin also helps their customers use their energy more efficiently by not only installing smart meters but by also providing a website where participants within a community can compare their energy consumption. This virtual community is also able to exchange information and tips to improve energy efficiency.
Changing attitudes to grid technologies
While legislation and regulation can prove to be a hindrance to the deployment of the new energy market, Stedin realizes that attitude and culture within an organization can also prove to be a major obstacle when a business is changing its business model.
A change in attitude is critical for the development of new skills which are necessary for the deployment of new grid technologies for instance. “Because of our customer-centric focus and our commitment to improving service levels, it is important for us to offer innovative products and the skills that go with them.”
Kruithof says that Stedin’s aim is to be transparent: “’Say what you do and do what you say’ is very important for our customers. That demands another culture change in our organization. Part of the new culture is that we do not only develop and use state of the art technical infrastructure, but that we also expand our existing networks with our customers’ needs in mind.”
Utilities need to be ready for prosumers
“To be successful in the transition, utilities have to prepare for and be ready for the new sustainable energy market. A lot of changes have to be synchronized. Only when new technologies and new in-house skills are in place can the promise to the customer be realised. This means that we have to stay in close contact with our customers to develop essential knowledge on their future needs,” concludes Kruithof.
In conclusion, Kruithof points out that the European Utility Week conference is an excellent and unique international platform to expose Stedin’s ambitions in the energy market. “We want to be challenged on the things we presently do and the direction for our future development. We hope to get suggestions to improve our present activities and improve our new business focus. We also expect to become connected to new partners in the energy transition with whom we can interact and share experiences.”