How to solve net congestion for zero emission city logistics?

The logistics sector is facing a significant sustainability challenge in the coming years. Improving sustainability often involves a transition to battery-electric delivery vans and trucks. However, a lack of capacity on the electricity grid can be a barrier to this transition. A new report by Stichting Connekt, the Nationale Agenda Laadinfrastructuur, and CE Delft provides potential solutions to enable companies to electrify even when grid capacity is limited

The transition to sustainability 

The logistics sector must switch to electric delivery vans and trucks by 2030, partly due to the introduction of zero-emission zones. This transition means that logistics companies (and other companies that use such vehicles) will consume much more electricity. 

Improving sustainability is customized for each logistics company. The first step is, therefore, to map out the current and future demand for charging. Subsequently, the required grid connection must be determined. The need for a new or larger grid connection depends on the company’s plans. It is essential to reflect on this at an early stage and to contact the grid operator. Needs and planning can be better matched by engaging in timely discussions. Consulting with neighboring companies can also help to share and develop knowledge and discover potential opportunities for cooperation. The grid connection required can be realized in time if a timely request is made. This is the simplest and often cheapest route. 

Grid congestion is a potential barrier to electric logistics

In some areas, however, the grid operator cannot realize the new or larger grid connection due to grid congestion. Grid congestion is the lack of capacity of the electricity network; in other words, the network is full. Companies can then not be connected until a grid expansion has taken place. Grid congestion is occurring in more and more areas of the Netherlands, making it one of the main obstacles to the electrification of logistics. 

Stichting Connekt and the Nationale Agenda Laadinfrastructuur requested CE Delft to conduct a study on mitigating measures. Mitigating measures are solutions that would make it possible to consume more electricity, despite limited grid capacity. This can enable the electrification of logistics when there is grid congestion. This study elaborated on mitigating measures and identified government policies to support and accelerate these mitigating measures.

Mitigating measures to achieve electrification 

CE Delft has elaborated six mitigating measures in fact sheets that meet the knowledge requirements of logistics companies to make electrification possible in congested conditions. The fact sheets include a description of the measure, the conditions under which it is suitable, the type of companies that can deliver the measure, and the future perspective of the measure. The measures are: 

1. Smart charging and charging strategy: Smart charging and a smart charging strategy contribute to lower and flexible demand for electricity from vehicle charging. 

2. Battery: A battery is charged through the electricity grid at times of low electricity consumption. The company can use this stored energy when electricity demands exceed the grid connection. 

3. Collective charging stations: Several parties can charge their vehicles at a collective charging station at a company or a public car park. The grid connection is requested in time and used efficiently. 

4. Non-guaranteed grid connection: A non-guaranteed grid connection means more electricity can be used when the grid is not heavily loaded. The grid operators and the market are currently developing this solution. 

5. Energy hubs exist in two forms that can result in reduced grid impact: a private network behind one connection (closed distribution system) or a virtual energy hub through the grid operator’s network. This second option is still under development. 

6. Temporary generator: Generators produce electricity from diesel, natural gas, or renewable fuel. A generator can be used temporarily until a grid connection can be established. The main disadvantage is that it releases high levels of emissions. 

Advice for targeted public policies 

Given the extent of grid congestion problems, there is an excellent need for mitigating measures. Without mitigating measures, many companies will not make the transition to electric vehicles in time. Targeted government policies are therefore needed to support mitigating measures. CE Delft recommends four concrete policy directions for supporting and accelerating mitigating measures: 

1. Knowledge development on mitigating measures in a leadership program and knowledge sharing through an expertise center and digital knowledge platform. 

2. Support for logistics companies in their research into mitigating measures using an advisor/expert. 

3. Regulatory and grid tariff reforms to enable collective and flexible mitigating measures. 

4. Additional insight into congestion per area and its development over time so effective policies can be formed for mitigating measures. 

Several other policies can further accelerate mitigating measures, but they require further research. For example, the correct design of a subsidy mechanism must first be thoroughly examined due to the great diversity of the measures in terms of technology, earning models, temporality, and purchase (rental or purchase). Other potential measures include tenders for a public charging infrastructure on commercial sites, a more active role for the grid operator in realizing the measures, and more certainty about the policy direction. In addition to specific policies for mitigating measures, it is also imperative for logistics companies to improve their knowledge of the electricity infrastructure, map out their future charging requirements and engage with the grid operator. 

Conditions for the policy of the mitigating measure 

The policy measures described can contribute to a large-scale and effective roll-out of mitigation. An exemplary process for elaborating and implementing this policy is essential for the support and effectiveness of the measures. We have identified three main conditions for the policy on mitigating measures: 

1. An integrated approach to policy related to mitigating measures in combination with electric logistics and the sustainability measures on the company site. A divided approach is not practical and would miss linking opportunities. 

2. All stakeholders should be involved. These include the Top Sector Logistics and Energy, Infrastructure and Water Management and Economic Affairs ministries, provinces and municipalities, grid operators and Elaad, logistics, and other companies and industry associations. However, one party should take the lead in removing barriers, implementing policy, coordinating with stakeholders, and monitoring progress. The Nationale Agenda Laadinfrastructuur appears to be a suitable party for this purpose. 

3. There is a great sense of urgency, and steps must be taken quickly in parallel with a national approach. An integrated and multi-stakeholder approach is essential, but it must be implemented promptly. Local pilot projects can be started earlier, and linking the policy to existing programs can also accelerate the process. 

A call to action 

Mitigating measures offer prospects for making logistics more sustainable now that congestion is becoming a reality in more and more areas. Putting the measures into practice and developing knowledge as soon as possible is imperative. With mitigating measures in place, the transition to electric vehicles will be possible for many companies, despite limited grid capacity. Action is required on the way to a sustainable logistics sector by 2030. 

Source: CE Delft

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