12-14 November 2019
Paris, France

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19 Sep 2018

Big energy users “are looking for visibility”

Robert Langkjær-Bain

VEMW is the association representing major energy users in the Netherlands. We spoke to its Managing Director Hans Grünfeld about what’s on the minds of commercial and industrial energy users, and why European Utility Week is attracting more from attendees than ever from this sector

  • What are the top concerns for your big energy users in the Netherlands right now?

Our members are pretty diverse, they include organisations like steel producers, chemical companies, hospitals and even building owners. They are interested in the three main energy-related topics of cost, reliability and sustainability. They range from consumer companies that are increasingly concerned about their sustainability profile, to energy-intensive producers of base chemicals and steel that are concerned about their competitive position because of costs.

  • Are people concerned about a level playing field with countries in other parts of the world?

Yes – particularly steel and base chemical refineries. But increasingly there is also concern about a level playing field within the European Union, because increasingly member states are looking at ways of introducing CO2 minimum prices, like in the UK and also the Netherlands, or banning coal or other forms of energy production.

  • What changes and developments are they concerned about?

Highest on the agenda is concerns about gas price developments driven by oil and CO2 prices. Another concern for Dutch gas users is the debate about the Groningen gas field – the largest gas field in Europe – and the decision by the Dutch government to reduce and eventually stop production from Groningen, and the demands on local gas consumers to switch their gas supply within the next four years. These are immediate concerns, because organisations don’t have alternatives easily at hand, and whatever they choose involves huge risks because the technology is immature.

  • So what are your members looking for from government?

They are looking for visibility. They want to understand what is it that the government actually expects them to do. With regard to the 2030 targets and ambitions, what are the realistic targets and how can they plan their investment? And obviously since we are also talking about immature technology and new infrastructure investment needs, there is a huge role for the government to help these companies make the transition. We are talking to the Dutch government about these things and we’re hoping to have an agreement by early next year which will provide some answers. But there’s still a lot of work to be done.

  • What are your members most interested in at European Utility Week?

There are two main things that are driving interest. One is obviously what the markets are doing right now. We see prices going up quite rapidly: gas prices, CO2 prices, electricity prices… People want to understand what’s going on, what’s driving prices and what are the expectations of market participants. The second thing has to do with changes that are taking place overall, not just in the Netherlands. Sustainability is increasingly driving the energy agenda, not only in the Netherlands but also in other countries, so the questions people have are things like, what is the future of coal in Germany? What’s going on with denuclearisation in Belgium? Is France serious about diversifying its electricity mix? How big is renewables going to be and what is the impact of this on prices? These are the questions that are driving people to take an interest in European Utility Week, because they understand that the Netherlands is a relatively small market within a larger European market.

Hans Grünfeld  will be speaking in the Panel Discussion, Challenges for large energy users, Commercial & Industrial Energy users session, Energy Markets, theatre 8 (Hub Sessions Programme)  07-Nov-2018 at 14:10 -14:40


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