Moving to a Distribution System Operator

17 July 2017

Moving to a Distribution System Operator

17 July 2017

We are at a time of unprecedented change and uncertainty for energy systems across the world including how new technologies will be deployed as well as political, commercial and regulatory uncertainty.  What this means for the future shape of the energy system is currently difficult to predict; there are too many variables in play. 

What we do know however, is that energy networks will be critical in enabling and facilitating intelligent efficient responses to these changes and challenges.  To manage the uncertainty, the value of flexibility and keeping options open is likely to remain significant.

One of the ways that this future gazing is playing out, is in planning out the transition from Distribution Network Operators (DNO) to Distribution System Operators (DSO).

The current common definition used for DSO is provided by the ENA and is:

  • Securely operates and develops an active distribution system comprising networks, demand, generation and other flexible distributed energy resources (DER).
  • Acts as a neutral facilitator of an open and accessible market, enabling competitive access to markets and the optimal use of DER on distribution networks to deliver security, sustainability and affordability in the support of whole system optimisation.
  • Enables customers to be both producers and consumers; enabling customer access, customer choice and great customer service.

At Northern Powergrid, we aspire to be a leading voice in shaping the transition.

Our work to facilitate the transition to a smarter, flexible energy system is focused on three main areas, namely:

·      Scoping the future to develop real tangible propositions and the associated pathways: All new and existing innovation projects will be delivered with a view to better understand what it means to transition to a more flexible energy system.  We are also actively contributing to the national programme that has a focus on the interaction between the transmission and the distribution system operators, the Open networks Project, led by the Energy Network Association.

·      Getting on with it and learning through doing: We already offer Active Network Management in parts of our network. We will seek more opportunities to buy and sell flexibility services (specifically storage and demand side response). We are recycling the ex-CLNR large battery (2.5MW) to participate in the Frequency Response market with partners, and get familiar with the trading arrangements with National Grid.  We will also work with stakeholders to develop new commercial propositions for the local supply of electricity.

·      Building new capabilities to better position us for future requirements: Building a new DSO capability will focus on the continued delivery of our smart grid programme and the Foresight innovation project -low-voltage cable intervention - reducing the number of power cuts and delivering more efficient asset replacement. We are also improving our demand forecasting abilities.

If you are interested in providing views and comments to help shape the outputs from the work in this area, please contact us on .