By 2050, the Netherlands wants to emit 95% less CO2 than in 1990 and by 2030 this reduction should already amount to 49%. According to Techniek Nederland, the business association of technical service providers, installation companies and the technical retail trade, the technical installation industry is indispensable in realizing these ambitions. Cooperation is essential to achieving electrification and climate objectives.
Everyone working in the field of electricity will need to join forces. In fact, if you don’t want to work together with others, you might as well quit now. The energy transition can only be a success if installers, construction companies, consultants and architects support one another. Installers and plant managers are increasingly expected to be capable of identifying issues and providing advice. To achieve this, they will need to work more closely with knowledge partners. Data from installations is worth its weight in gold – if you know how to interpret it. More and more sensors are being built into electrical networks, but what information from these sensors is actually relevant? What should you be looking for? What actions do you need to take based on analytics?
If you find the right partners in the field of digitization and automation, you can continue to focus on your core activities. Collaboration allows you to reap the benefits of new opportunities technology offers, and you can, for example, detect malfunctions much faster. However, this requires a new, more open way of working. Ideally, everyone working on an electrical installation or network would have access to all relevant information, stored in one central location. The BIM system, widely used in construction is a good example of how parties can work together using a digital model, made up of objects to which information is linked.
Of course, we have known for some time that all things related to electricity and sustainability are gaining momentum. Decision-making must keep up with that pace. Social and technological developments are also far more interrelated. You might develop a policy in the field of energy transition, but because so much change is taking place at a rapid pace it might no longer be workable or relevant in a few years. To do it right, you need a long-term vision and insight into current and future developments. As a trade association, we have an important advisory role. With this in mind, Techniek Nederland has contributed to the Dutch Climate Agreement with concrete proposals.
Energy transition: too slow
The political plans are very ambitious, but the pace of the energy transition is too slow. Implementation is difficult, mainly due to knowledge issues. Not only in politics but also within the electrical engineering sector. However, you can’t blame the sector for that, I think – no one has the time to develop the required knowledge right now. People are too busy dealing with the workload, and there is far too little time for training or retraining. This, in turn, is due to the fact that too few people are undergoing electrical engineering training at all levels. The government should also make resources available to educate the entire sector in new areas. This requires a substantial investment. Innovations are taking place extremely fast and lifelong development has become unavoidable. Regardless of whether you’re installing solar panels or designing power plants.
I believe that the current labor shortage is also caused by the sector’s image problem. People are prejudiced, in spite of the fact that working in electrical engineering is now more interesting than ever and offers stable career prospects. In the coming years, the installation industry will provide employment for tens of thousands of technicians with knowledge of sustainable technologies. This needed, for example, to ensure that the growing amount of sustainably generated energy no longer results in infrastructural problems. We should be discussing the importance of electrical engineering and the possibilities it offers in primary and secondary schools. If you start to do that, it will definitely pay off in the longer term. For example, an earlier campaign, for which a low-threshold toolbox for teachers was developed, led to a 10 – 15 % increase in registration for secondary vocational level installation technology education.
Onno van de Ven has worked at Techniek Nederland for seven years. He has been regional manager for the Southeast region for four years, and is responsible for cooperation with companies, agencies and political bodies in Limburg and Brabant. In addition, he is secretary of Jong Techniek Nederland, which focuses on the installers of the future, who will increasingly fulfill the role of energy advisors. Jong Techniek Nederland addresses themes that appeal to these young people, including the energy transition.