Forecasting, flexibility monitoring and data are among several priority areas for early investment for the DNO/DSO transition, according to Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS).
The energy software firm released a whitepaper advising distribution network operators (DNOs) on early investments that should be made to facilitate the transition to distribution system operators (DSOs).
Investments should be made into forecasting and planning, including updating investment planning forecasts on shorter timescales to match disruptive changes to electrical loads. This includes the growth of electric vehicles and the increase of distributed energy resources.
The importance of forecasting for electric vehicles was lauded by UK Power Networks (UKPN) in its latest EV strategy. The DNO is also involved in the RecorDER project with SP Energy Networks (SPEN) and National Grid ESO for the creation of a shared generation and storage asset register, enabling greater visibility and therefore better forecasting.
SGS’ whitepaper outlines that investments should be made into network monitoring and visibility, with “significant” development needed to balance requirements for open access to data monitoring across networks whilst also maintaining security and confidentiality.
Flexibility trading was also highlighted as a key area for an early injection of cash. Trading capabilities need to embrace data, algorithms and platform technologies to compute, arbitrate and stack customer, DER and flexibility value with notification, settlement and reporting.
In addition to trading, flexibility dispatch and control should be a priority area. As part of this, there should be open information for all system participants, tariffs for incentivising flexible and efficient use of the networks by all users and new markets to purchase the residual flexibility.
Lastly, investments into data should be made, with a particular focus on cyber security. These echo recommendations recently made by Ofgem for priority areas for DNO/DSO investment.
Graham Ault, executive director of SGS, said: “Data may become just as important a metric of DSO performance as prices, capacity and reliability are currently.
“The quality of data and communications will be crucial to operating the distribution system flexibly while responding to customer needs and managing critical situations appropriately.”
However, SGS is also calling for a “major shift” in regulation to incentivize and guide the development of new business models.
“There is a pressing need to identify, agree and invest in the low-regret DSO enablers if the necessary changes are to be implemented to match the urgency of customer demands and the low-carbon transition,” Ault continued, adding that regulators in other markets are engaged through grid modernisation, flexibility, DSO markets, non-wires alternatives, DER value streams, customer portals and other investment programmes that are underway.
“Regulators need to create clarity for DSOs on allowed business models and early investments in priority DSO enablers, including data and control platforms and flexibility capabilities,” he said.
How to best facilitate the transition to DSO – and what it might look like – is still very much up for debate. At Current± publisher Solar Media’s EnTech event last month, Randolph Brazier, head of innovation at the Energy Networks Association, said that whilst the UK is one of the leaders of the transition, “there’s still a long way to go” and the urgency is “starting to increase now”.