System operators look to the future of innovation at Innogrid2020+

Innogrid2020+ Day 2: Speakers push for policy interventions to support fast-paced green grid innovation.
Published: Thu 16 May 2019

System operator associations ENTSO-E and E.DSO made innovation recommendations to the European Commission on the second day of the Innogrid2020+ conference in Brussels, where the leaders of various grid management projects gave an overview of results seen so far and raised questions that still need to be answered.

The commission was urged to recognise that meeting climate protection goals will require substantial development of electricity networks, and enhance funding support for innovative research projects.


The ENTSO-E and E.DSO recommendations for the European Commission are as follows:


1. Recognise the role of networks for delivering on the Paris Agreement

2. Further advance transmission-distribution cooperation: Active System Management

3. Ease the way for new grid technologies through appropriate RD&I support, in line with the Mission Innovation 2021 objective

4. Enhance RD&I efforts on sector coupling and digitalization

5. Provide for innovative regulation: Enable sand boxes

6. Link EU Funding Programs: Projects of Common Interest (PCI) and Horizon 2020


"The next energy system will be one of innovation to connect physical infrastructures across sectors, geographies, communities and prosumers to ensure alignment of physical constraints with real-time market transactions,” said Laurent Schmitt, secretary general of ENTSO-E. “Grid operators are key in enabling this transformation towards a system of systems that keeps the lights on at least possible cost for customers while mitigating climate change." 

Cooperation between DSOs and TSOs is vital for a successful energy transition, said Roberto Zangrandi, secretary general of E.DSO. “The recent adoption of the TSO/DSO report on Active System Management bears witness to this fruitful cooperation. We must ensure continued dialogue in the future. More specifically, we must jointly raise our efforts in RD&I. At the same time, system operators require the support of the EU in terms of funding but also easing administrative procedures, to boost innovation and our European economy,” Zangrandi said.

Grid technologies and digital solutions have greatly improved and become much more cost-effective in the past five years, but many questions remain. This became evident during several sessions on the second day of Innogrid, where many research projects close to completion were showcased and experts discussed the challenges and opportunities from the rise of the platforms, active system management, sector coupling, storage and advanced grid resilience.

Many of the projects on display at the event’s exhibition are testing demand-side flexibility services and data management platforms. While the technology in general is performing well, these projects will only be successful if the customer and/or system operator see some financial gain, said Christian Dumbs of Enedis, presenting the Horizon 2020 Interflex project that will conclude at the end of this year. One of the priorities for the Horizon 2020 CoordiNET project that started in January is to discover how TSOs and DSOs define their needs and how these can be activated so that the grid flexibility platform can be expanded.

Platforms can offer access to functions or services that blur the lines between regulated and competitive markets, and decisions need to be made about where the platforms should sit and who should own and operate them, speakers said during an interactive ‘fish-bowl’ discussion. Clear definitions and a common methodology will be required, as a cyber marketplace may link physical structures such as local distribution systems and national balancing markets that have no direct link to each other in the ‘real’ world.

Harmonisation should not be a goal per se, speakers agreed, but some standardisation at the EU level will facilitate companies scaling up across member states and allow customers to switch between platforms more easily. “Maybe interoperability is a better word,” said Mathilde Lallemand, team lead TSO-DSO interface and digital policy at ENTSO-E. “The smaller they are and the more local the issues, the less we need EU harmonisation.” Platforms should be local but scaleable, requiring both a bottom-up and top-down approach.

The most efficient operation of the system will be achieved if all data is transparent and available to all stakeholders, but TSOs are reluctant to make all information public for fear of gaming, and some players want to retain the commercial value of their data. A level-playing field should be created so that new entrants with novel ideas can enter the market. Data is “the new fluid” that will keep the market running, said Jean-Michel Glachant, Director of the Florence School of Regulation.

A change in behaviour is required to achieve greater penetration of renewables and to engage customers. A consumer-centric approach might require a complete redesign of the system to hide complexity, said Helena Gerard of research organisation EnergyVille as she presented the EU-SysFlex project. Disruptive innovation may allow for a supermarket of flexibility services for congestion management and voltage control for system operators, but the customer interface needs to be simple and reliable.


From left: Laurent Schmitt - ENTSO-E, Jean-Michel Glachant - Florence School of Regulation, Roberto Zangrandi - E.DSO