HEDNO: The vision and future plans of Greece’s only DSO


The CEO of HEDNO, Nikos Chatziargyriou, spoke during the European Utility Week Summit Session on Digitalisation “Making Digital Transformation in Utilities a Reality” and explains the vision and the future plans of Greece’s only distribution system operator (DSO).

Counting over 7,000 employees, 7.5 million customers across Greece and about 240,000 kilometers of networks, HEDNO can rightfully claim a spot amongst the top ten largest DSOs in Europe. But that is definitely not the only or even the most important accomplishment of this Southern European utility.

HEDNO has made the news more than once in 2017 due to its unique management of the Non-Interconnected Greek Islands Electricity System, as well as its plans to develop the necessary infrastructure in order to increase RES penetration and reduce operational costs. Nikos Chatziargyriou, the CEO of HEDNO, explains the vision and the future plans of Greece’s only DSO.

Lately, there has been an increased interest worldwide regarding HEDNO. From Christian Buchel and Dominique Ristori visiting Crete this summer in their official capacity, to the wide interest I witnessed myself during this year’s European Utility Week. What is in your opinion the reason behind all this recent interest?
The European Energy market is in a transition towards clean energy and high efficiency. DSOs across Europe have a leading role in the energy transition and the goals set by the Winter Package for energy efficiency and higher renewable penetration. They are connecting increasing amounts of distributed energy resources to their networks, thereby actively facilitating and contributing to this energy system transformation.
HEDNO is the DSO in Greece committed to supporting this change by embracing and taking on new roles, by upgrading and modernising assets and systems and by adopting new technologies for smart grids and digitalisation. Our revised operational plan (2017-2021) is based on 12 strategic projects that will serve as a catalyst towards our modernisation.

One of the unique features of the Greek system is its non-interconnected islands. HEDNO is responsible for the efficient and secure operation and management of the 32 non-interconnected islands’ electrical systems, that host 15% of the Greek population and account for 14% of total annual electricity consumption. These islands can serve as ideal test beds for the application of innovative, advanced technologies, thus providing models for future development of larger interconnected systems.

Under the European initiative for clean energy for the EU islands, HEDNO can play a leading role for the transition of non-interconnected islands to renewable clean sustainable systems by creating new “smart” paths for European Islands. Our main goal is to develop the necessary infrastructure for the 32 electrical systems in order to increase RES penetration and reduce operational costs. We are investing more than 50 million euros in advanced energy control centres, IT systems and metering infrastructure, etc.

As the only DSO in Greece, do you think that HEDNO has a unique advantage compared to other DSOs in Europe and, if so, how does HEDNO make good use of this advantage? Do you perhaps see also a disadvantage in being the only DSO in a country, as there is maybe no one else to exchange knowledge and experience with on a local level? Or that is not the case?
Distribution system planning and operation are monopolistic, strictly regulated activities, in order to ensure security, cost-efficiency and quality of service. As such, the number of DSOs in a country does not bring any obvious advantages or disadvantages.
We strongly believe in the benefits from exchanging knowledge and experience with the other EU DSOs. HEDNO is, therefore, one of the active members of the European Association of DSOs for Smart Grids, EDSO. We also participate in the DSO Committee of EURELECTRIC and play a leading role in the European Technology and Innovation Platform for Smart Networks in Transition (ETIP SNET). Recently, we have established a close partnership with two leading European DSOs, E-Distribuzione (Enel) and Enedis (former ERDF), in order to promote a cross-border exchange of know-how and investigate opportunities for innovation and new technologies, that will eventually lead to the improvement of our services and our faster modernization.

At a local level, HEDNO is constantly seeking to benefit and utilize the local scientific resources and contribute to economic growth through cooperation with our academic society. Our main goal is to create and participate in a business ecosystem that includes universities, public and private companies, small and medium-sized enterprises and other research institutions and organisations, in order to jointly develop innovative projects that will support our network transition to a smart grid.
HEDNO also participates in various research projects through European and national partnerships with a particular focus on fields such as the optimal integration of RES into the network, enhanced network supervision and control, advanced data analytics, etc.

During your presentation at EUW 2017, you mentioned that the vision of HEDNO is to become one of the top 10 DSOs in Europe achieving an optimal combination of quality and low-cost services, while respecting environmental protection. What are the action points for HEDNO to make this vision a reality?
The main action points are included in our revised operational plan (2017-2021), that is based on 12 strategic projects that will serve as a catalyst towards our modernisation. These projects are the building blocks of HEDNO΄s Transformation Program towards a modern Distribution System Operator that utilizes digitised operations and new network planning and operational tools in the mainland distribution networks and in the non-interconnected island systems.

The strategic projects pave the way towards the smart grids era in Greece, thus enabling the development of new market services and achieving an optimal combination of quality and low cost. The projects cover a wide range of modernisation activities, such as smart meters, remote control systems, improved customer service systems, improved planning and procurement, etc. The benefits from these projects greatly contribute to better efficiency, increased quality and environmental protection.

One of HEDNO’s goals is to modernise the Distribution Network and transform it into a “Smart System”. One of the ways to achieve this is HEDNO’s automatic meter reading of low voltage project, which is the biggest IoT project in Greece. Can you please explain in a nutshell the project and its benefits for the Greek – perhaps even European – public?
“Smart Meters” constitute basic elements for the development of smart grids, so we consider our “Automatic Meter Reading of Low Voltage Consumptions” project a key activity for our integrated business planning.
Currently, we have already installed remote metering systems in our HV, MV and large LV customers, which consume almost half of the energy. The big challenge, however, is to replace all conventional meters across the country, including the islands, with smart electronic meters.

A first step was a pilot project for 200.000 meters. The tender procedure for the selection of the Contractor for this project is completed, but the project has not proceeded yet, due to legal disputes by the bidders.

Nevertheless, we have learned a lot from this pilot project and we are preparing for the Smart Meters roll out in the next years. Our schedule is to choose the business model and tendering process for roll out within the next year, that will ultimately involve replacing 7.5 million electromechanical meters throughout the country.

There are many financial and operational benefits from Telemetering, coming mainly from the fact that the customer gains access to real-time information about his electricity consumption and thus he/she can be motivated through proper incentives to assume a more active role in energy consumption and potentially production. Immediate benefits include energy savings with an associated reduction in emissions, drastic reduction in energy theft and reduction of network operational costs. The main advantages, however, come from the modernisation of the operational model of the DSO, resulting in much improved efficiency and quality of service, total reformulation of the retail electricity market enhancing competition, the emergence of new business opportunities for energy services companies and the efficient implementation of Demand response, which is in the core of the EU Target Model.

The smart island project seems very ambitious, with a very high penetration of RES (up to 60% – 70%) and reducing operational costs while maintaining demand in a reliable, secure and economical way. How long do you think it will take to have more than preliminary results and how are you going to achieve this?
The smart islands project is one of our 12 strategic projects. As mentioned above, HEDNO is responsible for the secure operation of the electrical systems of the islands and for their development and our aim is to achieve maximum RES penetration.
Operation of a non-interconnected island beyond 60% RES penetration, however, means that the island will be supplied solely by RES and probably storage for several hours of the year. This is a very ambitious goal that, to my knowledge, has not been achieved in a real, non-interconnected system anywhere so far. Moreover, the solution should be sustainable, in the sense that it should not increase the total cost in the island, providing, however, attractive investment opportunities. It should ensure the security of power supply, minimising the impact of thermal production.

The project will help us deal with all major challenges of such an operation in non-interconnected islands, like problems of voltage and frequency stability in systems with small or no-inertia, etc. It will allow Island Operators to develop advanced expertise and will provide new experiences. The solutions will serve as a model for large RES implementations in other non-interconnected islands.

Currently, HEDNO has submitted its proposal for the fundamental framework regarding the technical and economic terms for the implementation of this pilot project, and, in collaboration with the Greek regulatory energy authority, has prepared all the necessary regulatory and legislative adjustments. HEDNO is responsible for the preparation of the technical terms and it is expected that the tendering process will be launched by the regulatory authority for energy within the next months.

Kythnos and Crete have made the European – if not global – news more than once in 2017 regarding the energy sector. Everyone is interested in what is going on in these 2 small parts of Europe. What would you answer to them and why do you think we experience this elevated interest suddenly?
Kythnos and Crete are rightly considered as prominent success stories in the islands research and innovation history. Kythnos is the island where the first wind park and the first hybrid station in Europe started their operation in 1982 and 1983, respectively. Later on, in 2000, Kythnos hosted a fully automated power system with 500 kW battery storage and a 500 kW wind turbine. In 2001, the first Microgrid in Europe was created, electrifying 12 isolated houses, based purely on PVs and batteries. In 2006, this operation was enhanced by employing innovative, intelligent, autonomous Load Control techniques that optimise the energy efficiency of the Microgrid.

Crete is today characterized by hourly RES penetration of 60%, reaching 30% annually. Advanced control software functionalities for isolated systems with high RES penetration have been developed and tried in the EMS of Crete. Remarkable innovative activities in the Greek islands are also noted in Ikaria (hybrid system based on reversible hydro), Tilos (small battery hybrid station in progress), etc.

What are the near future plans for HEDNO?
The electricity sector in Greece is going through major changes and through a revolutionary phase. New tasks and responsibilities are constantly challenging our operation, like increased retail activity, high penetration of distributed generation supported by net-metering, the appearance of energy communities, smart islands, electro-mobility, etc. HEDNO is dedicated to achieving a successful transition to the new business model and to provide flexible products and services, to motivate and enable prosumers involvement and implement smart grid innovative technologies.
Our strategy is built upon the implementation of new technologies through our transformation plan. Our immediate focus includes high RES penetration and DER mobilization in islands, electro-mobility and support to local energy communities.

Contributor: Areti Ntaradimou, Content Director, EUW