Our customers depend on an infallible energy supply to light and heat their homes, charge their smartphones, run other devices, and – to an increasing extent – power their electric cars. In addition, more and more customers are generating energy for themselves or feeding energy back into the grid. They also need to be able to depend on a good infrastructure and excellent service.
This chapter is about what we do for our customers. Its structure is based on our strategic pillars. Customers have indicated that the following material themes are important to them (the figures correspond to the positions in the materiality matrix):
Objectives and results related to customers
Electricity outage duration
Realisation of planned smart meter offering
Cable numbers with >5 interruptions
Energy must be available at all times, and it must be accessible to everyone on equal terms. This is what we stand for. Alliander has over three million customers and ensures they can light and heat their homes at all times. Companies also count on us. We can only live up to their expectations by aligning our services to the demands and needs of our customers and by excelling in reliability and convenience.
Economic growth and energy transition create more work
Over the past few years, we have seen a sharp increase in the amount of work on our electricity grid in particular, and 2018 was no exception. This was attributable to the growing economy, which meant there were many customers we needed to connect. We also saw growing demand for capacity from customers such as data centres and market gardeners, for example. In some places, the number of solar parks for which a network connection was requested exceeded the connection capacity. At the same time, we had to deal with a major shortage of technicians who could perform all the work. This had an impact on the work that we could carry out for our customers. We were not able to complete all the work on time, and sometimes it took longer than usual to connect customers to the network. Since we want to continue to guarantee the availability of energy, completing our work package is one of our focus areas.
For us, being aware of our customers’ needs at an early stage, and maintaining a dialogue with our customers, is more important than ever. We are honest with customers about what is possible, and what is not, and we accurately anticipate customer expectations. Furthermore, we can make our organisation and operations more flexible and effective, and collaborate with other parties, utilities and contractors more flexibly and effectively. Given this, cost-aware and efficient operations is another focus area.
Energy transition in full swing
During the year under review, the draft Dutch Climate Agreement was presented. This landmark event set out various goals for a sustainable future. We noted that the negotiations leading up to this draft agreement resulted in greater awareness of the task to be accomplished, as well as the role that the energy infrastructure will play in this. Although the Dutch Climate Agreement still needs to be finalised, many of our customers have already noticed that the energy transition is in full swing. There are more and more solar panels, possibilities for charging electric cars and new-build homes without gas connections. All provinces and municipalities must have a Regional Energy Strategy (RES) of their own by 2020, which will then be turned into different visions on the heating transition for each municipality, based on a district-by-district approach. Alliander assists them with this by sharing our knowledge and experience. The heating transition is one of our focus areas.
Upgrading the entire electricity grid is not advisable due to the high cost to society. In view of this, during the year under review, we continued to work on alternative, innovative solutions, in order to avoid unnecessary costs for our customers. Smart design can be used, for example, to make the network more sustainable with fewer cables. This can be achieved by installing shared connections for wind farms and solar parks that are located near to each other. Another principle involves the use of a flexibility market for the smart matching of electricity supply and demand. We also investigated options for capping peak loads and using existing storage capacity, such as batteries in electric cars. Digitising our networks has enabled us to prevent outages, deal more quickly with those outages that do occur, and improve the availability of energy for customers. We can also use digitisation to streamline our customer processes. We offer online services that make it easier to contact us and allow customers to arrange more matters for themselves. The energy transition portfolio is one of our focus areas.
Our strategy is aimed at ensuring the energy supply of today and tomorrow. We are seeking to create value for our customers through an approach based on four strategic pillars. This part of the annual report explains these pillars in more detail.