In February 2012, DNV and KEMA joined forces to create a world-leading consulting, testing & certification, and risk management & verification company for the global energy sector: DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability (DNV KEMA). With over 2,300 experts in more than 30 countries around the world, DNV KEMA is committed to driving the global transition toward a safe, reliable, efficient, and clean energy future. The company is headquartered in Arnhem, the Netherlands and is part of the DNV Group.
From research to consultancy
Both KEMA and DNV have rich histories. KEMA started life in 1927 as the Dutch electricity industry’s Arnhem-based test house. Originally just an abbreviation of the company’s full Dutch name, the letters K-E-M-A have since come to stand for much more than the testing of electrical equipment. While electrical safety testing and certification are still among DNV KEMA’s core activities, today’s globally active company provides a host of independent applied research and consultancy services via an international network of subsidiaries and agencies.
The need for testing
In the early twentieth century, demand for electricity grew rapidly in the Netherlands. The result was a national electrification program and the birth of the electrical engineering industry. Factories and workshops sprang up, making cables and components. Some of the fledgling industry’s products proved unreliable however; the consequence of gaps in knowledge and qualitative variability. Recognising the need to have high-voltage equipment tested, VDEN–the organization that represented the power generators–created its own testing division in 1924. Demand for testing grew so rapidly that just three years later it was decided that VDEN’s testing division should become an independent organisation. So in 1927, the NV tot Keuring van Elektrotechnische Materialen (‘the Electrical Engineering Equipment Testing Company’), or ‘KEMA’, came into being. KEMA’s founders were provincial and large municipal authorities with their own electricity companies, plus a number of private power generators.
World-famous short-circuit lab
As the Netherlands’ electricity infrastructure continued to develop, KEMA grew with it. In 1930, the stockholders built a short-circuit lab so that tests could be carried out at high voltages. In 1938, the complex – a lab, workshops and storerooms – was finally opened by Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands. The facility’s electrical capacity was doubled in 1939, when construction of an R&D lab also began.
World War II
With the outbreak of hostilities in Europe came a shift in KEMA’s focus; in 1939 researchers turned their attention to issues such as vehicle lighting systems that were not readily visible from the air, and the regeneration of fuel oil from power plants. Germany’s occupation of the Netherlands the following year spelt an end to new investment. For some time, KEMA continued to operate as before, albeit under the supervision of a German official. Shortages of materials however, resulted in a scaling down of activities, and contacts with various parts of the world were severed. Towards the end of the war, as German forces sought to hold off the advancing allies, KEMA’s premises were requisitioned by the occupying army. The site was fortified and used as barracks by the Germans. When peace was re-established and KEMA returned, it was to a collection of badly damaged buildings stripped of machinery. After the war, recovery was rapid, with the volume of work exceeding its pre-war level as early as 1947. International contacts were resumed, and in 1946 KEMA attended the first congress held by the still-active CIGRE (Conseil International des Grands Réseaux Electriques).
KEMA celebrated its silver jubilee in 1952 with the opening of its rebuilt laboratories. Further lab expansions and increases in short-circuit power followed, until by 1968 KEMA possessed the biggest short-circuit laboratory in the world. The demand for tests at higher powers continued to grow, and in 1969 KEMA began constructing a new lab, still known today as the world’s biggest short-circuit laboratory. KEMA’s test facilities remain able to generate stronger electric currents that any comparable lab in the world. Four generators provide a combined capacity of 8400 megavolt-amps.
Familiar to almost everyone in the Netherlands, the KEMA-KEUR quality control mark is synonymous with safety. Dating back to 1924, the system is intended as a way of showing that components and end products have passed appropriate safety tests based on international standards. The KEMA-KEUR mark reassured the consumer that a product is safe. European integration has removed the distinctions between national quality control organisations.
KEMA played a major role in the Netherlands’ nuclear power industry. In the 1950s and 60s, KEMA was involved in construction of the experimental plant at Dodewaard and in countless other national and international projects. Prince Bernhard opened the KEMA Nuclear Physics Laboratory in 1957. After Dodewaard, KEMA built another experimental reactor (the KEMA Suspension Test Reactor) on its own site. Changes in national policy on nuclear power led to the project being wound up in 1977. After years of careful dismantling, the former nuclear reactor building was finally removed from the landscape of KEMA’s Arnhem Business Park in 2003.
Organisation and reorganisation
When market principles displaced utility thinking, KEMA became an independent company. The introduction of market forces to the Dutch energy sector led to a fall in demand; the country’s electricity infrastructure was complete and the era of construction and expansion had drawn to a close.
The 1990s were characterized by diminishing government involvement and reduced regulatory controls. KEMA played an active part in these changes, as a partner and consultant, a knowledge centre and an independent inspector. In the process, KEMA began to expand its horizons beyond the electrical engineering industry and establish a presence on much larger global markets.
Focus on energy related services
In 2009, KEMA acquired Gas Engineering Services from Gasunie and sold part of its testing and certification activities to the German safety expertise concern DEKRA. With this divestiture, KEMA focused even more strongly on its energy-related activities.
While electrical safety testing and certification are still among our core activities as DNV KEMA, today’s globally active company provides a host of independent applied research and consultancy services via an international network of subsidiaries and agencies.