Europe’s two principal associations for transmission system operators (TSOs) and distribution system operators (DSOs) are finding that working together is helping them navigate the complexity of European energy regulation.
In a recent interview with Engerati, Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General of ENTSO-E, and Roberto Zangrandi, Secretary General of EDSO for Smart Grids, both pointed to prosumer integration as a key reason to collaborate and find workable solutions.
Schmitt explains that the European Commission’s Clean Energy for All Europeans package from 2025 gives “further direction on the market design of member states’ energy networks, including prosumer integration into the market”.
“This is where the TSOs and DSOs need to work together to make it as seamless as possible for a prosumer to transact, trade and buy energy from renewables, whether they are cheapest in northern or southern Europe,” says Schmitt.
“At the end of the day, a prosumer is not a dispatcher, nor a trader. He has no clue on transmission, distribution and so on. So, it must be very easy for him to select and to make this transaction.”
EDSO for Smart Grid’s Zangrandi agrees on the need for cooperation in managing load from prosumers. “We need to agree permanently on respective responsibilities in handling the electricity that is coming from the bottom.
“And let’s not forget that electricity coming from the end of the distribution grid will soon convert also into electricity that is locally and privately stored as a result of advanced prosumers.”
Moving to a dynamic electricity grid
Zangrandi believes there are still many technical aspects that must be settled, “not in a permanent way, but in a dynamic way so that we can continue accommodating renewables in the distribution grid without affecting the TSO’s capability to absorb on one side and to intervene on the other side.”
One thing is clear to Zangrandi though - DSOs have to cooperate with TSOs in the widest possible way to help “couple the transition”. “Just like in the automotive industry, when you're phasing out one model and phasing in another, you need this transitionary period.”
Zangrandi explains how there is a running joke between the two associations. “EDSO doesn’t talk about local balancing because otherwise the TSOs can't accept it, but DSOs have to manage the load from the bottom and arrange it in order that the network operators can help the grid survive.”
Schmitt agrees that DSOs and TSOs have distinct roles but there is a clear need for synchronisation, which needs to be done through the prosumer.
“The prosumers access data from the DSO, but the DSO needs to pass some information to the TSO because that information is necessary for us to plan our system. We don't want also to oversize our system against the DSO system and vice versa.”
He adds: “Accommodating prosumers has opened a new full dialogue on what kind of information to share, how to share it and the entire design of the system from a prosumer point of view. We have a few initiatives on that, which are very interesting.”
European TSOs and DSOs collaboration
This month the two associations will showcase some of these initiatives in a joint summit - InnoGrid - in Brussels, Belgium.
Schmitt says the focus will be on “digital, digital, digital. We are taking advantage of InnoGrid to show innovation in the area of digital grid modeling, showing a common grid model of the entire pan-European system. Digital is also relevant in terms of digitising prosumer data, and building data hubs for prosumers.”
Schmitt says he sees the two-day event as “a fundamental pillar for facilitating” ENTSO-E’s 43 members meeting with their DSO counterparts to talk and collaborate.
“I very much respect the large DSOs; they understand what I'm saying. And if the DSOs are truly unbundled, we'll have the same interests at the end of the day. Then it will come down to technical details - what kind of information do we share and how do we challenge each other. That's good - innovation happens when we challenge people.”
From EDSO’s perspective - which recently applied to the European Commission to become the EU-DSO entity, Zangrandi views InnoGrid as a “tool which started to avoid direct confrontation between the larger DSOs and the TSOs but has grown in importance as a real marketplace of ideas and evolution.”
At this year’s event, Zangrandi explains that a part of the programme is dedicated to the presentation of current commission-sponsored projects. “InnoGrid is not a blank page, it is the bridge project, which as the name says is re-bridging the blank page with the applied reality.
“We shall have a report from a couple of platforms that are co-chaired or chaired by DSOs and TSOs such as the technology platform ETIP SNET This is the scope of InnoGrid.”