About SmartNet

The SmartNet project arises from the need to find answers and propose new practical solutions to the increasing integration of Renewable Energy Sources in the existing electricity transmission network. The subsequent technological (r)evolution is not only affecting the structure of the electricity markets, but also the interactions between TSOs and DSOs.

The SmartNet project aims to provide optimised instruments and modalities to improve the coordination between the grid operators at national and local level (respectively the TSOs and DSOs) and the exchange of information for monitoring and for the acquisition of ancillary services (reserve and balancing, voltage balancing control, congestion management) from subjects located in the distribution segment (flexible load and distributed generation).

As an effect of the increasing amount of generation produced by Renewable Energy Sources (RES) with variable generation pattern and of the big changes affecting distribution (deployment of distributed generation, local storage and flexible loads), future distribution networks will inject a growing amount of energy into the transmission system. Variable generation located in distribution could be operated together with local storage and active demand in order to provide local services for the distribution grid (voltage regulation, congestion management) as well as services for the entire system through the connection point to the transmission grids.

Till now, distribution networks have been managed with a fit-and-forget philosophy. In the future, strict real-time coordination will be needed between the different actors that are involved in the provision of ancillary services. Optimising the interface between TSOs and DSOs will prove a crucial factor to ensure the achievement of an overall efficiency target.

Different TSO-DSO interaction modalities are compared on the basis of national key cases (Italy, Denmark, and Spain); where physical pilots will be developed to monitor transmission’s distribution parameters and investigate modalities for the acquisition of ancillary services from specific resources located in distribution systems.

The project in brief

Reference CallLCE-6-2015, Research and Innovation Actions
Partners22 partners from academia, research organizations and industry
Countries9 European Countries involved
Duration3 Years
Budget€ 12.657.928,00 funded by the European Commission – Horizon 2020

Overall project layout

Overall project layout

The SmartNet project arises from the need to find answers and propose new practical solutions to the increasing integration of Renewable Energy Sources in the existing electricity transmission network. The subsequent technological (r)evolution is not only affecting the structure of the electricity markets, but also the interactions between TSOs and DSOs.

In three years, SmartNet aims at comparing different architectures for optimized interaction between TSOs and DSOs in managing the purchase of ancillary services (reserve and balancing, voltage regulation, congestion management) from subjects located in the distribution segment.

An ad hoc simulation platform will be built up over three layers (physical network, market and ICT) in order to simulate three national cases (Italy, Denmark, Spain); this simulation platform will then be implemented in a full replica lab, where the performance of real controller devices can be tested.

Three physical pilots will demonstrate modalities for exchanging monitoring and control signals between transmission and distribution networks and flexibility services that can be offered by entities connected to distribution, by exploiting thermal inertia of indoor swimming pools and distributed storage facilities of radio-base stations used for telecommunication.

The project SmartNet aims at providing an answer to some important open questions:

  • Which ancillary services could be provided for distribution to the whole system  (via transmission)?
  • How to optimise the TSO-DSO interface: which monitoring and control signals could be exchanged?
  • How could the architectures of the real time markets be revised?
  • Which regulatory implications could the above issues have?

Three national pilot projects

DSO area data monitoring

Italy DSO area data monitoring

  • Development of an aggregation system and implementation in field of a device in order to exchange all the data with the TSO.
  • Development of an architecture and implementation in field of a system for the voltage regulation.
  • Development of an architecture and implementation in field of a system for the power-frequency regulation.
Flexibility from thermal inertia

Denmark  Flexibility from thermal inertia

  • Aggregation of a sample of 16 summer houses.
  • Implementation in field of ICT technology to exchange data between TSO, DSO, aggregator and smart houses.
  • Development of an architecture and implementation in field of a system for the voltage regulation.
  • Development of an architecture and implementation in field of a system for the provision of balancing power.
  • Development of an architecture and implementation in field of a system for the provision of congestion management.
Flexibility from Radio Station

spain Flexibility from Radio Base Station

  • Aggregation of a 10-20 radio base stations to build up about 50 kW of flexible demand.
  • Virtual provision of frequency control service by the DSO to the TSO.
  • Implementation of the mechanism for DSO-TSO coordination related to the technical validation of flexibility services at the distribution level.
  • Development of flexible simulation tools for complementing the 50 kW available in the pilot reach the minimum 5 kW required by the TSO.

The Structure

The research will be developed over a 3- year period and has been organised around 4 phases, declined along the following technical work packages:



TSO-DSO coordination for accommodating ancillary services from distribution networks

(Leader: VITO)

This work package will identify and characterize both the ancillary services needs of the future power system, as well as the – distribution grid connected – resources (DG and DSM) which can provide these services. Next to this, it will analyse the corresponding needs for TSO-DSO coordination to dispatch these distribution grid connected resources in an economically effective and grid-secure manner by identifying and analysing possible high-level market architectures.

Three important trends which will be taken into account:

  • Use of DG and DSM for providing ancillary services
  • Use of – aggregated – distribution grid connected resources for ancillary services (vertical coupling)
  • Cross-border delivery of ancillary services (horizontal coupling)
Technical University of Denmark


Market architectures integrating ancillary services from distributed energy resources

(Leader: DTU)

WP2 focuses on the design of market architectures that can foster and leverage the provision of ancillary services by distributed energy resources (DERs), namely, distributed generation and storage and demand response. The primary objective of this work package is to produce mathematical models that underpin the functioning of distributed/local markets under the various TSO-DSO coordination schemes investigated in WP1. These mathematical models are required by:

  • The DSO to dispatch and price the provision of ancillary services by DERs partaking in the local market (market clearing mechanisms), to check whether the local network can accommodate the resulting power schedule (distribution network model) and, if not, to take re-dispatch actions that guarantee network feasibility at maximum economic efficiency (countertrading mechanisms).
  • The aggregators of DERs to market the provision of ancillary services through offers and bids (offering/bidding strategies) and to allocate the marketed volume of ancillary services among specific DERs (procedures for disaggregation and service allocation).
  • The TSO and DSO to exploit new forms of market offers and bids that can facilitate the provision of ancillary services by DERs (new market products tailored to DERs).

The mathematical models generated in WP2 will constitute the basis for the realization and validation of the software modules that will be developed in WP4.



Communication and ICT requirements

(Leader: VTT­)

WP3 concentrates on grid communications. The objective of WP3 is to collect the operational, business and end-user ICT requirements related to provision of ancillary services and management of TSO-DSO interactions use cases, to design a flexible ICT architecture, and to prepare the overall design specification. End-users (DSO, TSO, Market operators, aggregator of DER, VPP, and communication operator) play a key role in this WP in order to provide concrete requirements not only with respect to the robustness, security, and cost-efficient performance

but also the usability and service interoperability across national boundaries.

This is especially true in different TSO-DSO use cases as well as in different parts of the grid where there are significant differences in terms of expectations for communications. The knowledge about those and the characteristics of end-users determine the outcome of the

architecture design. Hence, this WP will focus on users and their expectations to enable a flexible and robust ICT architecture for grid communications.

The main objectives of this work package are:

  • to identify critical communication and security requirements of different players (DSO, TSO, Market operators, aggregator of DER, VPP, communication service provider) in national and Pan-European levels.
  • to design and enhance interdependent communication and grid architecture to fulfill the identified requirements taking into account the different architecture design alternatives,
  • to compare different wireless and fixed communication solutions to be used in pilot systems.
Ricerca Sistema Energetico


Development of the national cases in lab test environment

(Leader: RSE)

Aim of the WP is to create the simulation platform to be used for the simulation of the national cases. Three national cases will be developed, for the same Countries for which a pilot is developed in WP5. In this way, WP4 and WP5 can be seen as carrying out two complementary approaches: the simulations implemented within WP4 aim at investigating the implementation of TSO-DSO coordination schemes in their market context and could not be the object of a physical pilot because in real world no experimentation is allowed on market arrangements; WP5 pilots, by contrast, analyse peculiarities tied with the dialogue between the devices in a real context, which can be done by implementing an experimental apparatus on the real infrastructures.

The SmartNet simulation platform is going to contain a full implementation of TSO-DSO interaction schemes (simplified representation of real transmission network, simplified representation of real distribution network, ancillary services market/markets and ICT) and is projected as an assembly of different modules provided by the different project partners according to their own expertise. A further layer is added dealing with the interaction with other markets in a context where ancillary services might be shared in a transnational

context. The SmartNet simulation platform is personalized to the regulation and to the peculiarities of the three simulated Countries and for each of them, scenario data are matched for the target horizon (2030). Different TSO-DSO schemes are run in the context of each national case, whose performance is then compared Country by Country on the basis of a cost-benefit analysis metrics to be set up. This will allow to build a scoring of the different TSO-DSO

interaction schemes for each analysed Country. Cases featuring different modalities for trans-national exchange of balancing resources are also analysed.



Physical pilots realisation

(Leader: TECNALIA)

The aim of the WP is to validate the results obtained in the simulation platform, by demonstrating the highest-score TSO-DSO coordination schemes in Italy, in Spain and in Denmark. For that purpose, a physical demonstration project (pilot) will be set up in each country, where the selected TSO-DSO interaction scheme will be implemented and evaluated to assess whether the results in the lab environment actually correspond to real-life performance.

The future pan-European market for ancillary services will be composed of different products, including voltage regulation and frequency regulation among others, as current national markets are today. In most of the cases, service providers are the big generation units directly connected at transmission level. Big consumers and distribution companies can also act as ancillary service providers, by reducing their consumption, establishing load shedding plans or developing demand side programs. Generally, there is a minimum bid size to be eligible to participate in the provision of ancillary services (in the order of MWs), which blocks the small scale units to participate in this market.

Therefore, the only way for distributed generation (DG) and demand side management (DSM) to provide ancillary services is by means of aggregation. However, if the aggregation of DG and DSM is accomplished without the supervision of the corresponding DSO, these processes may interfere with normal distribution grid operations.

In order to avoid such undesired impact of DG and DSM in DSO’s activities, the DSO itself could act as the aggregator of small scale flexibility providers, i.e. become a single unit to bid into the market. Under this approach, all the actions by DG and DSM are checked by the DSO before the services are delivered to the TSO. Moreover, the regulated nature of the DSO allows regulatory bodies to ensure that the procurement of flexibility is made on a non-discriminatory and transparent way.

In order to cover a scope as broad as possible, the three pilots will demonstrate different features of the TSO-DSO coordination schemes identified in previous WPs. In particular, pilot A will focus on the TSO-DSO interface and, more specifically, in the mechanisms to provide ancillary services (voltage regulation, frequency regulation…) to the TSO from the DSO and the information exchanges required. The other two pilots will be focused on the DSO-demand aggregator link, as it will demonstrate how the DSO can consolidate the flexibility provided by demand and DG aggregator to procure the ancillary services to the TSO. In Pilot B, the demand flexibility of residential consumers (swimming pools) will be used, while Pilot C will use the demand flexibility of commercial consumers (radio base stations for mobile phones).

University of Strathclyde Glasgow


Regulatory, planning and operation implications of TSO-DSO coordination

(Leader: USTRATH)

The advent of technical innovative solutions on the distribution level needs a better support from the policy perspective in order to enable us to fully harness their potential. This becomes even more important at the next stage of Smart Grids when TSO-DSO operation becomes more integrated. The objective of this WP6 is to evaluate which policies are needed to enhance this integration and overcome potential barriers.

Therefore, WP6 focuses on evaluation of new operational, market and policy arrangements that will help better integrate changes envisioned on the distribution side with the operation of TSO. It is believed that integration of RES and DSM in provision of ancillary services and balancing on both local and system level is a key to harnessing of renewable generation. Also, new approaches to integration of DSO and TSO operation will make operation of distribution side more efficient and allow RES and DSM have a more significant role in archiving secure and sustainable power system networks.

The work in this WP6 will build on investigation in WP1 of arrangements for provision of ancillary services by RES and DSM to achieve better DSO/TSO integration. In addition, changes introduced by market architectures and ICT requirements investigated in WP2 and WP3, and then tested in WP4 and WP5, will enable further evaluation of the EU regulatory, operation and planning strategies. In particular, WP6 will seek to provide practical validation of these

EU strategies and also suggest approaches to overcome possible barriers or unintended consequences that may emerge from laboratory tests and trials in WP4 and WP5.

European University Institute


Dissemination, stakeholders involvement, impact assessment and exploitation

(Leader: FSR – EUI)

WP7 gathers inputs from all the other work packages and consists of the communication, dissemination and exploitation activities of the project. In particular, WP7 coordinates the due delivery process among partners, creates a high-quality space for debate and discussion by assembling an advisory group of industry leaders, coordinates the collection of the exploitation plans from all partners and ensures due-diligence and dissemination, deploys channels of awareness for project findings and exploitation plans targeting stakeholder and the European Commission and leverages the European University Institute to enhance dissemination goals through the publication of Policy Briefs, Project Reports and academic journal papers.

WP7 also contributes, upon invitation by the INEA, to common information and dissemination activities to increase synergies between, and the visibility of H2020 supported actions.

Ricerca Sistema Energetico


Administrative and technical management

(Leader: RSE)

Project management activities will develop along the whole duration of the project.

They will be mainly carried by the Coordinator, who will be responsible for the liaison between all the project partners and the European Commission. The contributions of the Partners (mainly from the Work Package Leaders) will be particularly concentrated at the end of each project-year, in coincidence with the due reporting to the Commission and during the coordination meetings scheduled over the project duration.

Chronological phases of the project

Chronological phases of the project