Evolving DSO Roles for Efficient DRES Integration in Distribution Networks

By Jon Stromsather, Pierre Mallet, and Marco Baron

With the growing relevance of distributed renewable energy sources (DRES) in the generation mix and the increasingly pro-active demand for electricity, power systems and their mode of operation need to evolve.

Current trends impose challenges that impact the ability of the distribution system operator (DSO) to carry out his responsibilities: develop, operate and maintain the network in order to deliver high-quality services to grid users and other stakeholders of the electric power system. All of this occurs while ensuring the safety of people, using assets most efficiently secure in cooperation with transmission system operators (TSO).

How should a DSO evolve its business to keep abreast of all these manifold technological challenges that they create? Beyond this, how should a DSO adjust its functions to respond to a developing market environment? These issues are the central theme of the project that has received funding from the Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2014-funded) which got under way in September 2013.

evolvDSO has defined the future roles of DSOs on the basis of scenarios which will be driven by different distributed renewable energy sources (DRES) penetration levels, various degrees of technological progress and differing customer acceptance patterns. Selected tools and methods to enable these future DSO roles have been developed and will be validated through computer simulations based on real grid data and existing real-life test beds. To facilitate the uptake of the new tools and methods, evolvDSO will provide recommendations for the regulatory framework and market architectures, and elaborate proposals of new interactions among key stakeholders.

The project consortium addresses the main research and technology gaps that need to be solved for DSOs to efficiently fulfill their emerging and future roles in the European electricity system. The DSO needs to evolve from its former “fit-and-forget” approach towards an active distribution system management (ADSM) approach to ensure the accomplishment of his responsibilities. This approach can guarantee the fulfillment of DSOs’ core responsibilities by taking advantage of the opportunities brought by smart grid technologies. The exploration of these opportunities could lead to the provision of new regulated services, the facilitation of electricity markets, the empowerment of the end-use customer and the creation of sustainable public policies for the cost-efficient integration of renewables. This evolution will allow DSOs to provide an adequate quality of service (QoS) and to enhance the security of supply (SoS) in a cost-efficient way.

The implementation of an ADSM approach will be of key importance to facilitate and support energy markets. To achieve this, DSO current roles must evolve and new ones will be created. These evolving and new roles will provide a level playing field by handling the increasing management complexity of the distribution system, so that an optimal use of flexibilities connected at distribution system level could lead to the provision of services the system requires.

By adopting these roles the DSO will facilitate and support current and potential new energy markets in the smart grid environment.

In order to deliver the services associated with the evolving and new roles to face all of the future challenges, the DSO will have to improve his infrastructure, management procedures and internal policies. More precisely, new business processes will be implemented or existing ones modified, based on ADSM schemes.

The innovative functionalities and the related tools have been identified and described using the Use Case methodology. This choice was based on the widespread consensus within the European Commission, Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) and the Smart Grid community that this method is the best candidate for the description of the evolutions impacting the Electric Power System in a smart grid context. Its use allows DSOs to contribute to ongoing EU activities on the elaboration of network rules and the definition of new market models, ensuring that DSOs’ needs are taken into account as part of the business process analysis conducted by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E ) and other stakeholders of the power supply industry. It also ensures compatibility with ongoing work on standardization.

The evolvDSO project described a series of business processes and their associated requirements in business use cases (BUC). The project has first identified the functions required to execute/enable the associated BUC, it has then described a selection of these functions in system use cases (SUC) based on criteria defined by the DSOs, with their associated functional and non-functional requirements. Each system use case is closely related to a tool, as it describes the input, the output, the function and the requirements of the process need in the business use case.

The evolvDSO project is developing new tools for the evolving DSO roles. The new tools and methods will encompass a wide array of DSO activities related to planning, operational scheduling, real-time operations and maintenance.

For the realization of an ADSM approach, the current regulatory framework would have to be adapted. The new paradigm and the promotion of a more efficient energy system require a sound regulatory framework. This regulatory framework would have to support/promote non-conventional investments and management mechanisms. The adaptation of the current regulatory framework towards the evolution/creation of these roles would be highly influenced by the specific context of a particular system. Due to the differences amongst the European distribution systems, it is expected that the roles and its related services would be adapted to the specific needs.

The consortium consists of 16 partners including DSOs, TSOs, renowned research institutions and new market players that provide unique expertise to achieve the stated objectives. evolvDSO will contribute to the transition to a more sustainable European energy system by maintaining and increasing the security and reliability of distribution grids facilitating the increased feed-in of DRES. The results of evolvDSO will drive the implementation of the EEGI roadmap and ultimately provide a significant impetus for reaching EU climate targets.




Jon Stromsather is the head of Smart Grids Development at Enel Distribuzione, where he has worked with smart grid technologies since 2002, when he joined the company to work on the Telegestore project. He is currently heavily involved in European cooperation on smart grids, in particular in the development of the European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI).


Pierre Mallet is the Director of Innovation and Technical Strategy in ERDF in charge of the R&D program of ERDF and of the development of new solutions for the distribution network operation. He is also Member of the Directing and of the Technical Committees, chairman of Session 1 “Network Components” and of the French National Committee of CIRED; French member of the DSO Committee of Eurelectric as well as French alternate member of the International Energy Agency WG on Smart Grids (ISGAN).


Marco Baron received his M.SC in electronic engineering from Università degli studi Roma Tre. In 2010, he joined ENEL to work in the Smart Grids and New Technologies Development Unit. He has been involved in several European FP7 projects (e.g. ADDRESS, ADVANCED). He has also been the project manager of the FP7 European project METER-ON.