Call for rethink on European distribution grid design and operation


David Trebolle,
Gas Natural Fenosa
Brussels, Belgium — (METERING.COM) — February 23, 2013 – Europe’s traditional “fit and forget approach” approach to grid design alone may no longer be fit for purpose, European power distribution grid operators have said in  a new paper from Eurelectric.

In the context of growing generation from decentralized and intermittent renewables – most of which will be connected to distribution grids – designing grids for peak load is no longer necessarily the most cost effective option.

In the paper, Eurelectric  promotes active system management, which would optimize the distribution network by allowing greater interaction between the key network processes–planning, access and connection, and operation – which take place within different time frames.

Greater flexibility, both on the supply side and the demand side, will represent a key tool in this respect. While traditional network reinforcement will remain important, such flexibility would help optimize the use of the existing network and thereby minimize distribution grid sex tensions.

In order to make this paradigm change happen, active involvement of customers is a must. In addition the distribution system operators (DSOs) need to have a more active role and their networks must evolve. DSOs need adequate tools that allow them to comply with their fundamental tasks of maintaining reliability of supply and quality of service in their networks within the appropriate conditions of transparent and non-discriminatory network access.

Setting up active system management will require innovative approaches towards the network and network customers as well as adjusting the regulatory framework.

“People tend to assume that distributed generation, because it is mostly located close to consumption, reduces peak load and congestion and therefore the need for network investment. In reality, distributed generation represents a huge network integration challenge. Network costs do not necessarily drop – in fact, they may even increase, while system operation becomes more complex. That is where active system management could come in,” said David Trebolle from Gas Natural Fenosa, commenting on the paper.

The EU-wide network codes currently being drafted by ENTSO-E, ACER and the Commission should facilitate alternative solutions, allowing for a flexible approach towards diverse European distribution networks. Proper implementation of existing EU legislation, namely the new Energy Efficiency Directive and the Second and the Third Energy Packages, should allow DSOs to act more actively, the paper concludes.