The biggest challenge in the coming years will be to invest the money wisely and correctly.
“Consumers are adapting, power plants are converting production, and we are constantly welcoming a lot of new producers with wind turbines and solar cells. Here, Jutland and our region are right in the eye of the hurricane,” explains Carsten Bryder Theils, CEO of the grid company N1, a subsidiary of Norlys, an energy and telecoms group.
The 550 employees at N1 send electricity to approximately 800,000 households and businesses, and the company owns the electricity grid in a very wide belt that roughly covers the entire centre of Jutland as well as south-west and southern Jutland. Here, the grid is operated from just below Energinet’s large 400 KV ‘motorways’ and all the way out to the meters. N1 is therefore faced with the major task of upgrading the grid for a future where huge amounts of fossil fuels are replaced by electricity.
A mere two years ago, we were investing approx. DKK 650 million annually in our grid. Already this year, this will double to DKK 1.3 billion, and within a few years we will have to invest DKK 2 billion every year.
Carsten Bryder Theils
“A mere two years ago, we were investing approx. DKK 650 million annually in our grid. Already this year, this will double to DKK 1.3 billion, and within a few years we will have to invest DKK 2 billion every year. And we cannot simply double in size – it is not economically viable, and there are not that many technicians. So we have to be smart about it – we have to be very sure to expand the grid ‘just in time’, but on the other hand, we are also too busy to build ahead.”
It is a persistent myth that we don’t have enough power or capacity in the grid to cope with developments of, for example, one million electric cars – some forecasts even say 1.3 million – by 2030.
“But that is not true, and it will not be so in the future. It is correct that the grid is not currently dimensioned for 2030 – and it is also partly historically correct that we are slow and bureaucratic. However, we are in the process of changing both these aspects,” Carsten Bryder Theils points out.
Traditionally – and until just a few years ago – operating the electricity grid was a much simpler task with a largely static power consumption. But in recent years, consumption has become a steeply rising curve, and this requires a completely new way of thinking in the industry.
“We have not been in the habit of using data, and the task may sound simple. But we have, for example, processed 98 billion data points from the electricity grid alone, because now we really need to plan ahead. Instead of sitting aggressively and waiting for a form to come through the door, we now focus on being customer-oriented and getting input on what the plans are around us,” the N1 CEO elaborates.
He has a background in the telecom industry and thus has good experience with customer focus, digitisation, data and infrastructure development. These are some of the competences that N1 will need even more of from employees and subcontractors in the future. Partly on the technical side, partly at the head office in the former Norlys Group headquarters in Esbjerg.
“If you’re a small electrical contractor, for example, and you want to enter the field, you need to be prepared to invest a lot in training. In return, we also offer long-term contracts to those we take on. Right now, we mostly use the larger players, but we would really like smaller, local players to get involved,” Carsten Bryder Theils emphasises, also having general recruitment in mind.
“N1 is headquartered in Esbjerg, and we really want the area to attract highly educated data specialists and make an effort to integrate them so that they put down roots here. The professional environment and the possibility of clustering will not diminish in the future – all our business and support functions will be based in Esbjerg, for example.”
“N1 is headquartered in Esbjerg, and we really want the area to attract highly educated data specialists and make an effort to integrate them so that they put down roots here.”
Carsten Bryder Theils
N1’s future focus on both energy and data fits perfectly with Business Esbjerg’s overall investment promotion strategy.
“We have a strong position as Denmark’s Energy Metropolis, and we are also working hard on our vision of Esbjerg as a ‘Digital Hub’. Our region is well on the way to becoming a northern European hub for digital infrastructure, which is attractive to IT companies, development and data centres as well as the future students,” Mikael Kirk Simonsen, who works with investment promotion of data and IT in Business Esbjerg’s investment department, points out and continues.
“Strong international fibre connections combine very well with the area’s central role in green energy – at the same time as our educational institutions are active players in creating and attracting new data-related education programmes”.
Strong international fibre connections combine very well with the area's central role in green energy - at the same time as our educational institutions are active players in creating and attracting new data-related education programmes.
Mikael Kirk Simonsen
Business Consultant Data/IT, Business Esbjerg
A really good development has been set in motion, which also matches the profile of the many large projects in the area within Power-to-X, recycling and data centres, which can stimulate each other – without us having to fear that they will ‘steal’ power from each other.
“Clusters are definitely an advantage, because they allow us and Energinet to build really strong grids. Esbjerg is a good place for manifesting this, and the idea of a digital hub in this region is right on the money,” Carsten Bryder Theils applauds.
“So the fact that Esbjerg wants to position itself in both energy and data is excellent. This combination is what makes it really interesting.”