European Distribution System Operators’ Association for Smart Grids Chairman João Torres
European energy policies aimed at liberalising, integrating, and decarbonising the energy sector are spurring our electricity networks to undergo dramatic changes and overcome colossal challenges. A more dynamic and distributed system with active consumers in focus is replacing the old and more predictable system based on centralised power generation. The EU renewables target, in particular, is a very strong driver for change to the scope of activities undertaken by the electricity distribution system operator (DSO). The variable nature of this distributed renewable energy generation poses a serious challenge to the DSO’s core responsibilities of maintaining security of supply and quality of service.
To add to this, activities evolving in the context of the internal energy market, like aggregation, are not taking grid constraints into account and can lead to local grid congestion and imbalances between supply and demand. There is a pressing need to upgrade our networks with communication and automation, but also to introduce flexibility to local networks, where the DSO depends on immediate access to data from all grid users (distributed generation, demand and storage) and must have the right to make decisions regarding actions from third-parties (transmission system operator (TSO), retailer, aggregator) impacting DSO grid stability. The DSO is, therefore, becoming an active system operator and is adequately placed, as a regulated natural monopoly, to provide access, without bias, to data from essential smart grid components like smart meters (consent permitting), for the development of innovative services on the market.
Regulation must be reformed not only to incentivise innovation, but also to allow the DSO to procure flexibility services from distributed generation, storage and demand response. These challenges are, together with standardisation, data privacy and cyber/system security, essential to tackle now.
Also of crucial importance to the urgent development of these smarter networks is the testing of new solutions and technologies on a large scale through demonstrations in real-life environments. The SET-Plan has been a valuable guiding tool for the development of smart technologies, and the coordination work of the European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI), set up under the SET-Plan, is playing an essential part in steering and accelerating the development and deployment of these cost-effective solutions at system level. Much is yet to be achieved, as is clear from the EEGI’s roadmap to 2022, which has also guided the Integrated Roadmap for Horizon 2020 spending on grids.
In the meantime, important discoveries are being made. Final results are expected from three FP7 smart grid projects: REserviceS1 (assessing the potential savings of smartening our grids against the costs of reinforcing them in the traditional way), Meter-ON2 (turning existing smart meter roll-out experience into practical guidance) and GRID+3 (providing support to the EEGI).
An important part of the GRID+ work is the development of measures to improve the scaling and replicability of the projects, as well as the development of tools to share knowledge and results, which is vital for an efficient roll-out. This is the reasoning behind the InnoGrid2020+ conference4, organised in partnership with the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) and GRID+. The two-day annual event gives smart grid projects a chance to share their results and brings industry and decision makers together to discuss barriers and solutions to grid developments in Europe. Our third edition (March 25-26 2014, Brussels) will be opened by DG Energy Director Dominique Ristori, and we encourage projects to present during our interactive sessions and exhibition. Together we have the potential to meet these challenges in the best way possible for Europe.
EDSO for Smart Grids
EDSO for Smart Grids is gathering leading European Distribution System Operators for Electricity cooperating to bring smart grids from vision to reality in Europe and focussed on guiding EU RD&D, policy and member state regulation to support this development.