Digital revolution in the energy system – risk and reward

The digitalisation of the energy sector is well underway with utilities across the value chain seeking ways to adapt for the decarbonisation, decentralisation and democratisation of the power system.
Published: Mon 15 Apr 2019

Across Europe great progress has been made to boost renewable generation capacity – but as incremental intermittent supply sources are added, the challenges of balancing the system require increasingly sophisticated tools and market measures.

Distribution system operators need to be able to manage flexibility from customers to provide ancillary services and for congestion management. They need digital technologies to act as an enabler to the expansion of complementary resources – like batteries and electric vehicles – at the distribution level.

Signe Horn Rosted, director of electricity markets at Danish TSO Energinet, describes digital innovation in the power system as “the glue” which will stick conflicting system needs together.

“Both DSOs and TSOs have a central role in the green transition, it’s very important to start pooling all the flexibility,” she tells Engerati.  New local market platforms have the potential to increase the value of the distributed energy resource. It’s a challenge – and one which Signe firmly believes will rely on extensive collaboration between distribution and transmission players.

At the Digital Utilities Europe Summit in London next month, she will share her vision for this collaborative working environment as well as highlighting key insights and lessons for the industry from Energinet’s energy data service which allows for a secure access to consumption data, from individual households as well as aggregated energy data. Access to data will foster the acceleration of new digital based energy services to the consumers, says Rosted.

 

Other leading speakers at the event will add their perspectives on the opportunities presented by the digital revolution in the power sector. Vattenfall Distribution’s asset development manager Peter Soderstrom, for example, will speak about the value which has already been created through European smart meter rollouts and the expansion of digital intelligence this has brought.

Ahead of the event, Soderstom tells Engerati: “There is a lot of potential in digitalisation and it will be quite a significant transformation, but with that said, the utility industry is not really starting from scratch. It is already doing a lot but it’s being done in silos and it’s not integrated enough. We are not harnessing all the synergies and building on existing functionalities.”

But while utilities seek to optimise the benefit digitalisation can bring, they must also be aware of the new and evolving risks and vulnerabilities it creates.

Dr Holger Wiechmann, senior manager, digital and smart energy world at EnBW, will address these threats head on with a presentation on resilience in a digital age at Digital Utilities Europe.

“Resilience is not a new word for utilities because in recent decades we had really secure supply,” he says. “But in future due to decentralisation it’s easier to attack these kinds of grids. We have to reinvent or define the term resilience. Digitised systems require a different approach to the safe operation of infrastructures and we should start to talk about this, within our own company and with the government. We have to have better laws for data security, or try to find solutions which are resilient themselves, such as battery storage in an island grid.”

In the run up to Digital Utilities Europe, Wiechmann worries that “many people do not take care of [cyber] resilience” – and as the event welcomes delegates to discuss a whole range of issues relating to our smart energy future, he’s keen to ensure that the new and emerging threats that come hand in hand with digital opportunities, are pro-actively managed.

For further information, latest agenda or to register for Digital Utilities Europe 2019 contact Dimitri Pavlyk on +44 (0)203 141 0627 or dpavlyk@acieu.net.