Energy experts advocate cooperation at Innogrid2020+

Innogrid Day 1: TSOs and DSOs urged their colleagues to work together on digitalisation and other projects to solve common problems posed by the challenges and opportunities facing the industry.
Published: Wed 15 May 2019

Senior energy executives on the first day of the ENTSO-E and E.DSO Innogrid2020+ conference with the theme “Connecting physics and digits: Power Platforms on the rise” had three key messages. Firstly the importance of cooperation, both between TSOs and DSOs and between all stakeholders in the energy value chain. Secondly the customer must be at the centre of the new energy market at the distribution level. And thirdly they warned that regulations could stifle innovation.

System operators are facing numerous challenges which will only be overcome if they cooperate and share information on issues such as demand-side management and cybersecurity, said Christian Buchel, chief digital and international officer at Enedis. Another challenge is to cooperate on network codes before assessing recommendations, he said. “My friends let’s do it together. Not tomorrow but now.”

Best practices are notably shared among participants in the European Commission Joint Research Council’s (JRC) initiative which contains information on 950 smart grid projects, including from non-traditional players such as housing associations and municipalities, said Maive Rute, deputy director-general. JRC also provides free public information via its Open Access Distribution modelling platform and conducts “living labs”, which allow testing for interoperability. “Let’s keep working together,” she said.

Over the last five years there has been a dramatic change in perspective from system operator CEOs, said Christoph Frei, CEO of the World Energy Council, which conducts a TSO/DSO survey. If sector coupling is to work, issues that have nothing to do with energy at first sight need to be addressed and traditionally held views will have to change, Frei said. “This is massive change and it will only succeed if we can think boldly beyond our box and have a truly collaborative vision.” Leonardo Meeus from the Vlerick Business School gave examples of how regulators in different European countries manage sandboxes, where companies are more at liberty to test and innovate without being subject to all of the usual rules.

 

There has been a paradigm shift in the energy market and once a tipping point is reached developments happen very fast, said Chris Peeters, CEO of Elia Group. “It’s an exciting time. We can ride the wave but if we don’t watch out we’ll get swept away by the wave as well.” Prosumers need to be at the centre of the new market structure, he said.

Traditional energy suppliers risk losing market share to innovative new players. None of the incumbents took part in a public tender for flexibility services held by Netherlands DSO Alliander, all the participants were new players and start-ups, said Ingrid Thyssen, chairman and CEO. Grid extensions and congestion have already been avoided, she said, and while the regulatory framework has been a stumbling block they have gone ahead regardless. “There are solutions we need, we should just do it and be transparent. Sometimes you have to be a bit naughty.”

Susanne Fabry, head of steering energy networks at E.ON outlined the ENKO project which also encourages consumers to offer energy to avoid bottlenecks. One project in the Netherlands was rejected by customers because they had not communicated it well, she said. “It’s very important to communicate with people and make them be a part of it.”

Too much regulation kills innovation, said CEO of Swissgrid Yves Zumwald. Traditional roles are changing and new responsibilities that should be taken care of are falling between gaps that are emerging between players. “It is Stone Age regulation we have in place now,” he said. “We have to link all these activities together.”

The cost of telecoms has plummeted thanks to its use of open source code and the same could be done for the power sector, said Shuli Goodman of the Linux Foundation. Goodman announced the launch of Linux Energy, a collaboration between 30 founding members supported by RTE, Faraday Grid and others. Working together to use open source code instead of proprietary software will make power transmission and distribution cheaper, faster and more secure, she said.

ENTSO-E announced two winners of the Power Network Innovation award: Peter Nemcek, VP of research and development at cyberGRID for the cyberNOC flexibility aggregation platform, and Ryan Kavanagh, network strategy engineer at Western Power Distribution for the signposting information project which indicates where flexibility services will be most likely to be needed within the next five years. Students Pauline Lego and Katia Schubert were announced as winners of the Ana Aguado scholarship to the Florence School of Business summer course on regulation of energy utilities.

 

Leonardo Meeus, Vlerick Business School presentation