Want to make a difference in sustainability? Become an electrician!

Jochem van Tilburg, Manager Southern Region, Equans Netherlands

Equans is an international technical services market leader, with 90,000 employees in 20 countries. In the Netherlands, 5,500 employees work to help our clients with innovative and sustainable technical solutions every day. We aim to be the chosen partner for clients and contribute to a sustainable world. Our employees rely on expertise and technology: from advice and design to realization. We support clients in the energy, digital, and industrial transitions.

“I have been committed to making the Netherlands more sustainable through innovative technical services for nearly thirty years. A great deal has changed during that time. When I was still a student, you could look at a schematic and understand how something worked right away. You could take apart a radio and put it back together without issues. The advent of (power) electronics and ICT has brought about enormous changes. However, one thing has always remained the same in the electrical engineering sector: we’re too modest. Our work is literally hidden in ceilings and walls, or underground! This modesty is strange, considering how important electricity is and how it is becoming even more important. If the power goes out, our world comes to a standstill. More importantly, outages can quickly cost lives. Our role as technical service providers is becoming larger, more important, and more complex. However, we are often seen as a “facilitators” that primarily provide services to contractors. Our traditional position in the construction chain, as well as the regular procurement market, ensures that we can’t make much impact when it comes to implementing the new techniques and solutions necessary to achieve our sustainability goals. We actually do our job too well: if the power regularly went out in the Netherlands, everyone would soon understand the value of our work and insights!

I believe that as an industry, we need to work on an improved perception of installation companies’ work, and in doing so make sure it’s better appreciated. On the one hand, we’re still connect traditional power cables and switch cabinets, but on the other hand, we are constantly programming and configuring various black boxes, increasingly acting as a system integrator. Few people outside our sector actually understand what we do, but our work is absolutely essential for a reliable power supply and making the energy transition happen. Historically, we have mainly focused on technology. But we are now really focusing on our relevance to society and how we can increase the impact on CO2 reduction, thus strongly contributing to the sustainability of the world.

“Grid Congestion is a Relative Concept”

As Equans, we want to be the undisputed leader in accelerating clients’ transition to a sustainable world. This means we’re not passive, but making an impact and taking action in all facets of our daily work.

We are very proud of our role in the realization and operation of utilities at the Brainport Industries Campus (BIC) in Eindhoven. This campus houses numerous companies and educational institutions in the high-tech manufacturing industry. We’ve proven that it is perfectly possible to provide such a large-scale campus with sustainable energy without using gas. By combining technologies (solar panels, heat pumps, batteries, etc.) with ingenious energy management, we can offer tenants uptime guarantees.

When the government says no new connections can be realized due to grid congestion, I always say: ‘grid congestion is a relative concept.’ That might sound a bit strong, but it’s true: you shouldn’t just look at theoretical peak loads that might occur if everyone is using their full allotted capacity at the same time. You have to look at how each party uses energy and at what times. By applying energy management, a great deal is still possible within the existing electricity grid… Companies often don’t know how much energy they’re using, let alone when they’re using it…

If all the companies on the BIC campus applied for a connection individually from the grid operator, they would need ten times the power they currently consume together. No one can believes what we’re doing here: “Such low consumption, such low demand for power – that’s not possible, given the fact that the number of companies on the campus is growing, and companies keep expanding their production!”

I think that to attract motivated new people, we must clearly explain how the energy sector relates to sustainability and the energy transition. So, we shouldn’t talk exclusively about cables and technology, but instead emphasize the relevance and broader context. The youth of today are looking for a sense of purpose – they really want to contribute to a better, cleaner world. The energy sector is the perfect place to do this. My wife also works in tech, and has been striving to get young people enthusiastic about technology for years. She sees young people, and female students in particular, get excited about a new view of the profession, that’s not just about technology, but also about making things work well, solving problems in a smart way, and contributing to sustainability. Our motto is, therefore “If you want to contribute to global sustainability, you should just become an electrician.”

The Importance of Transparency

We live in a world in which technology is becoming increasingly important and complex. At some point, you can’t keep doing everything yourself. That is why partners like HyTEPS are important. We have been working together very for ten years, very satisfactorily. We have realized some brilliant projects, for several clients, where we’ve extracted a great deal of additional power from electrical installations through smart measurements, simulation, and design.

By collaborating instead of competing, we can solve even the most complex issues related to matters such as grid pollution. We can do this by sharing information and knowledge, instead of keeping secrets and trying to outdo each other. However, the traditional procurement model gets in the way of this. In this model, the primary focus is on financial interests within the limited scope of the contractor involved. As a result, total cost of ownership and sustainability goals, which require participation of the entire chain, are not seen as sufficiently important and therefore not given enough attention. Furthermore, ambitious schedules after contracts have been awarded leave no time!

To solve this, I firmly believe in transparency. By making clear up-front agreements about risks, overhead costs, and profit, parties can work on the basis of a financial model with joint objectives. This makes it possible to truly design together, make choices together, purchase together, and execute together, without losing knowledge and experience.”

Jochem van Tilburg has been Manager Southern Region at Equans Netherlands for over 12 years. After studying HTS Electrical Engineering/Energy Technology, Jochem started his career 28 years ago at Equans (formerly ENGIE Services) as a measurement and control technician, and subsequently grew into a project leader, manager of the service department, and now director of Region South.


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