The Netherlands is leading the way in Europe for cooperation between TSOs and DSOs with the launch of the GOPACS platform earlier this year. The platform allows transmission system operator TenneT, and all DSOs (Stedin, Liander, Enexis, Enduris, Coteq, Rendo and Westland Infra) to mitigate grid congestion via procurement of flexibility on the intraday market, which is becoming increasingly important as more renewable and distributed energy resources are connected.
The coordination mechanism between TSOs and DSOs which is implemented in the GOPACS platform will enable and accelerate further development of the future energy system in a way that it is sustainable, reliable and affordable. Without such a coordination mechanism, future operations of the electricity system would become costly, complex and even some system risks could emerge.
“It’s a big step forward when you look at other European countries,” says Klaas Hommes, business developer at Dutch TSO TenneT. “When DSOs have congestion they can solve this without creating congestion into the TSO grid or creating imbalance. And we as TenneT are able to use flexibility assets connected to DSO grids which leads to more liquidity, without creating congestion at DSO grids. We’re all in the boat together.”
Peter Hermans, chief technology officer at Stedin, agrees: “The energy system of the future will not be built upon the siloes of the past: good TSO/DSO cooperation, with respect to mutual roles and responsibilities, is crucial.”
In the Netherlands DSOs are fully unbundled, meaning they are not allowed to engage in the production, trade or supply of electricity or gas and so they do not have conflicts of interest. To solve possible congestion the GOPACS system can match a reduction in production in one part of the grid with an increase in another, creating an intraday congestion spread. This price difference is paid by the grid operators via intraday market platform the Energy Trading Platform Amsterdam (ETPA), and discussions are ongoing with other exchanges such as EPEX Spot and Nordpool.
So far the system is working well, Hommes says, but there are opportunities to expand on the benefits of digitalisation and data on electricity flows that it can produce, which is as yet not publicly available. “We’re not used to it but data is key… when you look at artificial intelligence it’s something completely new to us and we have to get used to the fact that a computer can make better decisions than the two guys sitting in the control room. We are risk averse, it’s hard to change that.” So far the platform uses proprietary SCADA systems and data, but may at some point in future procure third party IT services.
A public notice system on the GOPACS website lists congestion notices, but so far only from TenneT. Today the investment strategy of DSO grids aims to maintain a “copper plate” status, where there is no congestion at all. But, driven by the energy transition, in the future this will be an unaffordable strategy to maintain. Therefore grid operators (DSOs and TSOs) are heavily investing in creating more detailed forecasts/schedules on a day ahead timeframe on a 15 minute interval basis, and the outcome of those analyses will lead to more detailed notifications which will also be published via the GOPACS website to the market.
Some regulatory drivers are also pushing for stronger TSO/DSO cooperation in data exchange in forthcoming grid code reforms, based on the EU’s Clean Energy Package, but the first priority for DSOs is to become much more aware of congestion problems in their own grids and how to handle them.
Large investments are required to bring production from the resource-rich north of the country to high demand centres in the south and to connect new offshore wind farms, of which 6.1GW will be connected between 2024 and 2030. This will undoubtedly have an impact on grid congestion, Hommes says.
The 700MW offshore wind farm Borssele Alpha is ready for operation, which will connect to onshore high voltage substation near Borssele for further transport in the high-voltage grid.
TenneT is also collaborating with TSOs in other European countries to balance the frequency of the grid using platforms for frequency restoration reserves (aFRR and mFRR) known as PICASSO and MARI. These projects will be operational from 2021.