Distribution System Operators Observatory

Join us in updating the most comprehensive inventory of distribution systems in Europe. Several Distribution System Operators already contributed to the first exercise completed in 2016. Our aim is to expand this mapping and shed more light on the features and challenges of the transitioning power distribution world.
This activity aims at providing stakeholders with tools and analyses to better understand the rapidly changing power system scene, enabling early identification of distribution system developments and trends and supporting evidence-based policy making.


Over the last years, we made a great effort in collecting, processing and analyse data on the changing European power sector. Up to 2016, little information was systemically available on the European distribution system operators (DSOs) and the networks they operate. This was also due to the vast number and heterogeneity of the distribution systems in Europe - in some Member States there is only one DSO, while in others tens or hundreds of them operate their networks on a regional or even municipal basis - and some constraints in sharing data on assets of commercial value. The situation varies radically from country to country, due to historical as well as geographical, legal, political and economic reasons. Differences concern also other aspects, e.g. the scope of the DSO activities, the level of unbundling, the operated voltage levels and other key technical information on the networks.


An online survey was launched in 2015 with the aim of collecting several clusters of data, relating to types of ownership and unbundling, network structures and designs, amounts and types of connected distributed generation, and reliability of supply indicators.

Given the vast number of DSOs in Europe, the data collection exercise was limited to the bigger ones, i.e. the 190 DSOs that have to comply with the unbundling requirements set out in the EU Electricity Directive (i.e. the DSOs serving more than 100,000 customers).

This report presents the results of the 2016 Distribution System Operators Observatory, the most comprehensive data collection exercise on European distribution systems published up to that date.

79 out of the 190 larger Distribution System Operators (i.e. those serving over 100,000 customers and hence subjected to the EU unbundling provisions) are covered by our research. The respondents manage more than 70% of the electricity supplied by all Distribution System Operators serving over 100,000 customers.

Building upon the collected data on the Reference Network Model tool:

  • 36 distribution system indicators were built, split in three categories: network structure, network design and distributed generation. These indicators allow for comparison of the parameters and criteria used by DSOs when designing and sizing their network installations. 
  • A total of 13 different representative distribution networks with different voltage levels were built: 3 large scale geo-referenced networks (urban, semi-urban and rural) and 10 feeder-type networks with common topologies, available for download.

By producing a realistic distribution network, the representative distribution networks offer the possibility to simulate the impact of different scenarios on large-size grids without having access to the actual network data.

For other inquiries (e.g. obtaining/developing representative network models, questions/suggestions etc), please please click here
 or drop an email to JRC-IET-DSOPROJECT@ec.europa.eu 

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