Europe’s distribution system operators (DSOs) see energy system integration as a key area to take an enabling role and are ready to take this responsibility says E.DSO.
The widespread electrification across the economy of the energy transition is demanding integration between electricity, gas, heating and transport and potentially other sectors.
Such system or sector integration, or ‘sector coupling’ as it is also called, requires coordination and interfaces between the system operators for managing and planning the grid, particularly the DSOs where the greater proportion of distributed generation is being connected.
With models for sector integration under development, Europe’s DSO association E.DSO has set out in a position paper some key considerations.
First and foremost among these is that the design of system integration must take place at a local or regional level, because of the large differences between urban, rural and industrial structures. Solutions must contribute to limit the organisational and technical complexity preventing unnecessary energy transport and providing added value and social acceptance to the local customers.
Another is that infrastructure planning and development needs to be optimised, which requires coordination at distribution and transmission levels and incorporation in spatial planning procedures.
From the DSO perspective, there needs to be a definition and regional harmonisation of their operational responsibilities and definition of the operational interfaces, while the national regulatory authorities should ensure coordinated system operation.
DSOs as system integration facilitators
E.DSO says that the role of ‘system integrator facilitators’ should be assigned to existing DSOs as part of the regulated business and it must be considered as a new role. This in turn implies that the energy transition must be structured through integrated energy systems with the customer in the focus, where DSOs are the natural proactive enablers.
Underpinning this role is the need for adequate data to support decision making and easily accessible platforms that are managed in a neutral way can be seen as a first step in building this role, says E.DSO.
Possible steps include providing relevant information on shared platforms through added-value combinations of existing data streams and developing alternative options for the integration of energy sources from different energy systems, including investments in infrastructure maintenance and development.
Others are to support legal authorities in spatial planning processes and support for different cooperating parties in building operational and business plans for integrated energy systems on local levels.
The organisation indicates that next steps at the European level should include harmonisation of the conditions for the provision of flexibility and alignment of regulatory legislation.
“A common legislative framework covering different energy systems could ensure a fair level playing field to all those sectors which aim to be more and more integrated,” the paper concludes.
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