Pillar 4: excellent network management is the basis
Our energy networks are among the most reliable in the world. We will ensure they remain so in the future. Thanks to efficient management, we are keeping the existing networks affordable. We also consider it important that customers experience more convenience and trust when we are working for them.
In 2017, we spent € 816 million on the maintenance, replacement and construction of our energy infrastructure. The investments in the networks are tailored to the priorities, approach or characteristics of each region. An overview of our investments in the energy networks in each region is available on our website.
Reliability of supply of the energy networks
Annual electricity outage duration
Investments and maintenance are designed to maintain and improve the reliability of our energy supply. In 2017, customers were without electricity for 21 minutes (2016: 23.3 minutes) on average. Excluding the helicopter accident in Culemborg, the outage duration fell to an all-time low. This was achieved despite increased network maintenance owing to the introduction of digital tooling and improved operational control. Cable numbers with more than five interruptions per year exceeded the target, namely 22 versus a maximum of 18, partly because other objectives were given priority.
- 1 From 2017, Alliander reports the number of repeat outages based on cable number instead of post code area. The figures for 2013 to 2016 are still based on post code area.
In case of major outages, an internal crisis organisation is mobilised. Within this organisation, staff members of various hierarchical levels work on-call shifts. Depending on the nature and scale of the incident, we set up a case and/or investigation team to assist and ensure the completion of any internal and/or external investigations. All major incidents are evaluated to identify possible improvements. In 2017, three legal procedures were in progress in relation to the health & safety of customers or third parties.
Dilemma: connecting local generation and consumption
Large-scale renewable generation (wind turbines, solar parks) is increasingly taking place close to end users. By giving local users direct access to locally generated energy, we save on investments in upgrading the underlying infrastructure. Under the current rules, a large-scale local generation facility must be connected to a nearby switching station. This means that the generated energy must first be transported to the substation further down the line before being routed back through the distribution network to the end user in the area where the energy was generated.
More Smart Cable Guards
To increase the reliability of supply of the energy networks and facilitate safer and more successful inspections, innovation is an ongoing and multi-faceted process within Alliander. One such innovation is the Smart Cable Guard (SCG), a system that detects and localises weaknesses in the underground network, ideally before these lead to interruptions. A single measurement is sufficient to check a section of several kilometres, with defects being localised within an accuracy of several metres. This saves time and costs spent on repairs to the electricity supply. In 2017, Alliander purchased 266 additional SCGs in order to locate and prevent interruptions, bringing the total to 400.
SCG clocked up 25 successful results in 2017. In 13 cases, SCG correctly pinpointed the defective component that had caused an energy interruption. In 12 cases, an energy interruption was pre-empted. SCG thus prevented the estimated loss of 1,410,000 usage minutes.
Deployment of drones for inspection
The second innovation concerns drone-based inspections. Alliander is the first network company to obtain permission to fly with drones. The drone inspects high-voltage masts, so no one needs to climb up the mast. Moreover, the line does not need to be switched off during the inspection, thus reducing the risk of interruptions. The LianDrone meets all requirements set by the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport – ILT) for working with drones.
Annual gas outage duration
In 2017, households were without gas for 94 seconds on average.
Causes of gas outage duration
Causes of electricity outage duration
Towards the end of 2017, the energy market regulator ACM published the tariffs for all network operators. The network tariff for most households in Alliander's service areas will rise by about € 2.60 per month. The tariffs for large users will also increase from 2018, depending on their consumption. The increase in the tariffs is in line with the rise in costs in the sector. Growing investments in smarter infrastructure is another reason for the tariff increase.
Abolition of sufferance tax
Liander's tariffs for electricity transport and connection services are generally higher than those of other network operators. The reason is that Liander's service area comprises many more municipalities that levy sufferance tax. Liander pays this levy for the electricity cables and gas mains lying in the municipality's land. In 2017, this cost Alliander almost € 137 million. The sufferance tax costs are passed on in the network operator's tariffs. In 2017, the Dutch House of Representatives and Senate approved the abolition of sufferance tax on electricity and gas infrastructure.
Our results in the regions
Major solar, wind and green gas initiatives are underway in Gelderland. In 2017, we worked on solar parks – including one on water – and started a capacity expansion project at Ulft to connect the Den Tol wind farm at Netterden. In Huissen we managed to keep the municipality natural-gas free for an extended period of time by feeding green gas into the network. And the Poederoijen station in Bommelerwaard was completed to meet the growing energy demand from market gardeners. The preparations for extending the A15 to the A12 have started.
The Haarlemmermeer area is home to a large concentration of data centres, notably around the A4 motorway. The local network was not designed to cope with this industry's huge appetite for energy. To cater to the exploding demand for energy in Haarlemmermeer, we are consulting with the national transmission network operator TenneT, the municipality and residents to find a suitable location for adding new capacity to the area. In 2017, Liander received approval from the ACM to use the reserve capacity of one of the stations in the Haarlemmermeer area to meet customer demand.
To guarantee the reliability of our energy distribution, Liander invested in the replacement and expansion of the electricity network. The Amstelveen transformer station was partly renewed. Furthermore, it was decided to replace the Schalkwijk station. All these expansions were subject to intensive consultation with local parties.
Demand for energy around the Zuidas business area is rising faster than expected. We worked on the renewal of Zorgvlied station. In 2017, we also looked for new expansion locations and worked on smart solutions to facilitate demand. We collaborated with the municipality at various levels to expand the electricity network in Amsterdam. Besides the redevelopment of areas, this also comprises activities at a more operational level to fit the installations into the urban environment. We also jointly analysed and formulated our energy ambitions in the IJburg district.
Renewable energy is attracting a lot of interest in Zuid-Holland. In 2017, the demand for energy rose further in the greenhouse farming area of Zuidplaspolder. Network operators Stedin and Liander are active in adjacent parts of that area and worked with TenneT to find a sustainable common solution. At various locations in Zuid-Holland, such as at Katwijk Station and the centre of Alphen, we replaced existing installations with new-build.
Friesland has really embraced solar energy and targets 200 megawatts in 2020 and 500 megawatts in 2030. As a result, demand for solar energy surged. This was reflected in solar fields and a collective solar scheme initiated by businesses. At various places in Friesland, Liander started to reinforce the existing infrastructure to cope with the strong growth in renewable energy.
Flevoland is an extremely suitable area for wind generation. Talks were started for wind farms near Dronten and Lelystad in order to agree on the best socially acceptable connection solution. This decision will determine which capital investments need to be made in the network. In Lelystad we helped to realise Europe's first-ever direct current network.
The key determining factor of customer satisfaction is the convenience they experience. Since 2017, Alliander has been measuring this using the Net Effort Score (NES). Immediately after completing a job, we ask customers for feedback on our services. The NES shows at a glance how much convenience (in percentage terms) a customer experiences. The calculation consists of the balance of the percentage of respondents who experience little or very little inconvenience minus the percentage that experience great or very great inconvenience. This provides insight into the results we achieve and the areas where improvements still need to be made. The NES is updated on a monthly basis on our website.
Our customer satisfaction score for the business market was 39%, which was above target (38%). The main reasons are better access for customers (online and telephone) and better call handling thanks to intensive coaching. At 47%, our customer satisfaction score for the consumer market was below target (52%). This was partly related to the problems with the realisation of our work package and media issues surrounding the smart gas meter. An aggravating factor was the resulting longer waiting times at customer service, despite the expansion of our online services. Other determinants of customer satisfaction are outage duration and communication and good and fast complaints handling. We are continuing to devote extra attention to these aspects.
- 1 Starting from 2017, Alliander reports on customer satisfaction using the Net Effort Score (NES). The scores for 2016 have been restated according to this definition for comparison purposes. The 2016 figure falls outside the scope of the external auditor's assurance engagement.
Online customer service
Our customers value the Liander website and the ‘Mijn-Liander’ section. Since the end of October, Liander customers in the Ede and Apeldoorn regions can use our handy online service to make an appointment for their electricity connection. The feedback on this experiment indicates that this Alliander service offers customers an experience similar to that of mainstream webstores. During the trial, 57% of the customers in the selected regions opted to make an appointment online. The trial ran until the end of December.
Liander's clear website gives customers easy access to all sorts of information, such as the status of current interruptions, the options for new electricity connections and smart meters. Liander guides customers quickly to the right place for answers to their questions. The recommendation from the benchmark survey was to offer direct communication options (e.g. chat and WhatsApp) on frequently visited information pages.