Energy Flexibility in the Netherlands

Our consortium partner Jelle Wijnja from Alliander, has writen an article on Energy Flexibility and how data centres can be part of the energy transition.


The Dutch electricity grid is among the most reliable in the world. Liander (part of Alliander) is a network operator and responsible for the maintenance and development of a large part of the Dutch distribution grid. Liander aims to keep energy reliable, affordable and accessible for everyone in the interest of society.

Due to economic growth, the world around us is changing rapidly and the energy transition is in full swing. Wind turbines, solar panels, EV charging stations, heat pumps and increasing energy needs from datacenters: the Netherlands is switching to an energy system with large volumes of locally generated power and more different kinds of energy. Liander takes measures to guarantee the reliability of the electricity grid.

The energy transition impacts the electricity distribution grids

In recent years the energy transition has put stress on our distribution network. To keep the reliability of the network intact, large consumers of energy (such as datacenters) and producers of (sustainable) energy are delayed connecting to the network because of the limited capacity and high risk that grid congestion may occur. Figure 1 shows the areas in which no or limited net capacity is available for the consumption of electricity. This Figure shows that already the energy transition puts stress on our distribution network. The growing impact of datacenters on the energy grid is best visible at the Amsterdam Schiphol-Rijk region. In this datacenter hub, no extra transportation capacity is available.

Figure 1 The white areas show areas at which transportation capacity is available, in the yellow areas (very) limited capacity is available and in the orange and red areas no transportation capacity is available. The grey areas are not part of the Liander distribution grid.


Energy Flexibility as part of the energy transition

Liander is continuously reinforcing the grid with additional cables and transformers to increase the capacity, to ensure additional consumers and producers can be connected. The permit procedures make this a time-consuming practice. Therefore, and to minimize the costs to society, Liander is investigating different solutions. One of these options is Energy Flexibility.

Energy Flexibility is referred to as the ability for a consumer or producers of (local) energy to adjust its load profile based on the needs of i.e. a grid operator with congestion risks. Flexibility is most useful in areas characterized by a varied load profile (a non-flat load profile), see Figure 2.

Figure 2 The red line indicates the maximum allowable grid load. In an uncontrolled case at which no flexibility is used (orange line) grid outage would occur due to overloading of the grid. In case flexibility is used, the load peak is shifted in time and more spread over the day. In this case grid overload will not occur


In co-creation with market parties, Dutch grid companies have already successfully implemented Energy Flexibility for congestion management at various locations. For example, the use of heat pump in a hotel in an emerging business area and using the flexibility of horticulturist in a more rural area.

Can datacenters supply Energy Flexibility?

In an open market for flexibility, Energy Flexibility can be delivered by anyone capable of shifting its load in time. For example, smart charging of electric vehicles at the same moment at which solar or wind energy is available and discharging at peak hours.

Also, datacenters could have the potential to contribute to the energy transition by offering flexibility. On a daily basis by shifting IT loads throughout the day. Additionally, datacenters could contribute by offering the capacity of their emergency power supply to the grid in case of an emergency (i.e. once a year).

Grid reinforcements will take years due to long permit and in the meanwhile no additional datacenters can be connected to the grid at some specific point. That is exactly the reason why Liander is investigating the use of Energy Flexibility from a variety of sources and enterprises, datacenters being one of them.

For futher information contact Jelle on


At a glance

  • No: 768739
  • Acronym: CATALYST
  • Title: Converting data centres in energy flexibility ecosystems
  • Starting date: October 1, 2017
  • Duration in months: 36
  • Call identifier: H2020-EE-2017-RIA-IA
  • Topic: EE-20-2017; Bringing to market more energy efficient and integrated data centres