« Back Reflection 09.03.2018

How DSOs can become more predictive and more proactive

Rolf Pedersen, Business Development Manager, Aidon:

Renewable energy units, shifting energy policies, digitalisation, regulation – all of these factors are shaping the energy system and the business. At the center of this flux are DSOs. The challenge they face involves striking a balance between placing end consumers at the heart of the energy market, complying with the latest legislation, and delivering flexible solutions to smart energy consumers.

Let’s look at Norway. According to the estimate of the utility association Energi Norge, 140 billion Norwegian crowns need to be invested in the electricity grid before 2025 to secure reliable power supply and to enable new consumption habits and increased use of renewable energy. At the same time, many well-funded research and development programmes are focusing on the threats and opportunities in the ongoing electrification of society to illustrate the trends and future scenarios which may have a significant influence on the existing system and business structures.

The need to invest in change

One such scenario is this: DSOs will cease to exist if they don’t act quickly enough and become more forward-leaning. It’s likely that other structures will develop in the midst of this disruption if they haven’t already: energy islands, off-grid initiatives, and new market models made possible by blockchain technology, to name a few. These pose a considerable challenge, but also opportunities to traditional DSOs.

How about regulation? Will it, for instance, be an obstacle for DSOs in terms of competition in the new market? In Norway, the most innovative DSOs are very aware of this and are doing their best to prepare themselves for the future. But there is a dilemma: DSOs need to invest in change, efficiency and in the ability to absorb distributed renewable production into their existing networks. At the same time, they need to keep distribution tariffs low. If they don’t manage to do the latter, the crossing point for the possibility of customers going off-grid will be lower.

DSOs recognise the situation and are taking it quite seriously. That’s why they’re investing in modern AMM equipment, new digital platforms and IT systems. In addition, they’re examining ways in which they can operate their network in a much more efficient way. These DSOs are considering being more predictive when it comes to failure and management, and being more proactive so that failures in the network can be allocated and fixed before they result in costly damage.

Why accurate, real-time measurements matter

To put it simply: everything has to be measured, and the measurements have to be made available for the DSO’s operation in close to real time while ensuring good quality. It’s a matter of getting statuses and measurements into a digital platform so the DSO can operate the network and be certain that they are delivering the required quality without facing outages. For instance, more and more customers are establishing local renewable own production. Such production is normally unsynchronised with the demand in the distribution network. To be able to maintain voltage quality and retain control over load balance and load flow, it’s necessary to measure all the consumption and production points much more rapidly and fluently so that preventive measures can be taken, and a network breakdown can be avoided.

This is precisely the task of our new generation Energy Service Devices (ESD). They measure energy consumption and generate measuring data, doing so at defined intervals. Aside from further processing the measuring data, the ESDs’ system module controls the meter and enables the provision of everything from time-stamped registry values, control of loads and monitoring of power quality, to registration of power outages and fault information. It also interconnects with external instruments and sensors and handles information from them.

This is Aidon’s greatest mission: by installing our secure digital AMM solutions and using modern mechanisms such as machine learning and data analytics, among others, we help DSOs to postpone and reduce their calculated grid investments. We empower them to embrace the changes in the energy business so that they can deliver positive consumer outcomes.