Paving the way to a Climate-Neutral Future

Merel Schumacher, Strategic Business Developer

Plotting a course. Launching pilots. Focusing on details and zooming out again. Merel Schumacher loves the variety of her job, which she writes about in this blog, and it enables her to contribute to a noble cause. Take a peek over the shoulder of this Strategic Business Developer.

Energy excites me. So when studying Technology, Policy, and Management, I chose to specialise in the subject. I visited the trading floor at Eneco during a field day and quickly became very enthusiastic. I set my sights on an internship at Eneco Energy Trade (EET), where I would eventually write my thesis, too. The whole experience was so good that I decided to apply for a job and stay.

I have worked as a Strategic Business Developer at EET since 2021. Right at the heart of the energy transition, you could say. EET is our international trade department for the purchase and sale of energy, a large and growing proportion of which is sustainable. By 2035, Eneco even has the goal of climate neutrality. In my job here, I contribute to the transformation from fossil to renewable energy.

Plotting our course

Half of my time is spent exploring new strategic avenues within EET. At the moment, for instance, we’re reviewing our position with respect to hydrogen. We discuss with colleagues from the various Eneco business units what their plans are, coordinating tasks and responsibilities. In addition, we ensure that there’s a strategy in place that is congruent with what’s going on around us.

The team I work in is responsible for submitting an annual business plan detailing the direction in which we intend to go as a department. As we plot our course, we take care to factor in external developments such as changing laws and regulations, as well as the plans of other departments. The challenge is to make sure everybody’s intentions are properly coordinated so that we arrive at a single, consistent business plan. 

'I often think about how special it is to have been given so much confidence and responsibility so soon after starting at EET. But actually, that’s typical of Eneco.'

Merel Schumacher

Strategic Business Developer

Tailoring demand to supply

The other half of my time is spent on projects that are shaping the energy transition. In conjunction with colleagues in Belgium, I’m currently conducting a pilot involving 100 households, whereby we use algorithms to optimise their energy consumption.

The Belgian energy market is rather different from the Dutch. Consumers are allocated a certain maximum capacity for their connection to the grid. If more electricity flows through the connection, they have to pay more. This incentivises people who generate their own electricity to use as much of it as possible themselves. It’s also smart, for instance, to charge an EV at times when the rest of the house uses relatively little energy. That way, the car is always ready to go and customers keep their bills low. 

The mechanism also helps us balance the energy system. The fact that the proportion of electricity generated by solar and wind is on the increase is a good thing, but because production depends on the weather, meeting demand can be a challenge. For this reason, we try to tailor demand to supply. By charging those EVs at times when a large proportion of sustainable energy is being generated, for instance. 

An eye on detail and the bigger picture

As a Strategic Business Developer, I play a coordinating role. Determining a strategy and managing projects involves many people from within and outside of Eneco. The Belgian pilot, for instance, has all sorts on board, from product owners and forecasters to architects and app developers. I maintain contact with the various teams, establish connections, and bring together just the right specialists at just the right time. I make sure we keep up the pace and keep moving forward. It’s a fantastic job.

Building bridges between technology and society was a major focus of my studies and my work here continues seamlessly in the same vein. I need to know enough about the technology to be able to fine-tune details and simultaneously keep an eye on the bigger picture. Where does Eneco want to be five years from now? How can we at EET contribute to achieving that? Or, at the project level, what is our objective, and are we on course?

The combination of strategic and operational activities is ideal: I watch our strategic plans become project realities and the experience of projects is invaluable input to further sharpen our strategy.

We advance as one

I often think about how special it is to have been given so much confidence and responsibility so soon after starting at EET. But actually, that’s typical of Eneco. Everyone is heard, all well-founded ideas considered: whatever it takes to realise the company’s huge ambitions. It’s a culture that attracts people with drive, and experts in their field who want to get ahead. At the same time, everybody here helps everybody out. You’re never left to fend for yourself. We advance as one towards our shared goal: climate neutrality by 2035.

Now be honest, that’s pretty exciting, right?

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