Where are we going?

Where are DSOs going? How will they face future challenges? What is the possible role and contribution of the SmartNet project?

Today we interviewed the SmartNet project coordinator, Gianluigi Migliavacca, to provide a wider overview of the situation of distribution systems and the importance of our research.

What role do you envisage for DSOs in future distribution systems and in particular in the framework of future services provided to the system from subjects in distribution?

If many new subjects located in distribution  will provide services for the system, also the role of the DSOs will have to change. The present common belief in the EU is that the DSO figures should retain a role of facilitator of the distribution system operation but not assume any responsibility for system balancing. This brings to the widespread idea that TSOs should remain responsible for real time markets and DSOs could at most take a role of local congestion management utilizing resources allocated outside of the market. In the SmartNet project we want, by contrast, to analyse if this is really the best option while also considering the problems that could arise. For instance, in order for the TSOs to manage the resources in distribution in real time they should be able to perfectly monitor the distribution networks and activate a state estimation for the whole system, this is a very challenging issue. Other solutions will be compared by attentively evaluating the local competences of the DSOs giving a final answer based on objective outcomes of a simulation model.

What new services could be provided from subject in distribution and how old services will change their provision modalities?

New services (e.g. regarding power quality or inertia provision) could be provided by a multitude of subject located in distribution network, maybe through an aggregator that submits on their behalf bids into the real time markets. Moreover, the same subjects could help contribution active power for system balancing and reactive power for voltage regulation , thus helping to cope with a system where RES generation is increasing more and more.

Which role will ICT and data management play in future services provided by subjects in distribution? Could technology availability or cost become limiting factors?

ICT should be seen as a door-opener and not as a prime mover. An attentive analysis of the problems, often connected with the strict specifications of real-time markets participation, can greatly help to locate the most effective technological solution, that should be a trade-off between  dispatching cost spare and need to invest in new infrastructures. In the short term, technology could become bottleneck, but if the right business case is located, I am convinced that the manufacturers can ensure an adequate investment in R&D that will bring the sought after solutions.

Will TSO-DSO interaction have a significant impact on future  distribution operation?

Yes, i twill have an important impact. In a system where subjects in distributions are no longer passive and provide services for the system, whatever TSO-DSO interaction scheme will be selected, the exchange of information between TSOs and DSOs will considerably increase and this aspect has to be managed adequately. The new roles for the DSOs have to be clearly regulated so that no conflict can arise.