Distribution System Operators Observatory

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The electricity distribution is the electric value chain's segment where most of the digital-enabled, low-carbon energy innovation is expected to happen. Check out our latest effort to shed light on the features and challenges of the transitioning electricity distribution systems in Europe. Compared to the first exercise completed in 2016, in the 2018 report (click on the cover to download it) we increased the coverage of Distribution System Operators (DSOs) from 79 to 99, out of the 190 largest DSOs currently running the European distribution grids. 


Over the last years, we continued collecting, processing and analysing 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. Focusing on the European Distribution System Operators (DSOs) and the networks they operate, we published in 2016 the first JRC report on the state-of-the-art of DSOs in Europe based on the data shared by 79 out of 190 largest Distribution System Operators (i.e. those serving over 100,000 customers and hence subjected to the EU unbundling provisions). 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.


In 2018 a new online survey was launched with the aim of collecting several clusters of data, relating to network structures and network designs, amounts and types of connected distributed generation, and reliability of supply indicators. Additionally, a new part on the smart grid dimension was included covering topics as the Demand-Side-Flexibility management, the DSO-TSO coordination, the deployment of EV charging infrastructure and the smart meters deployment.

This new report presents the results of the 2018 Distribution System Operators Observatory, the most comprehensive data collection exercise on European distribution systems published up to that date.

99 out of the 190 largest 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 88% of the electricity supplied by all large Distribution System Operators.

  • we computed and make available up-to-date techno-economic indicators, which help having a more complete picture of the current status of distribution grids in Europe;
  • we discuss the capabilities and the strategies of the DSOs to cope with more active consumers, to coordinate themselves  with Transmission System Operators (TSOs), to integrate EV charging infrastructure in their grids and to deploy smart meters in order to improve system observability;
  • we are developing a new platform (DiNeMo - Distribution Network Model), which, based on real data, can reproduce, in a georeferenced and quasi-realistic manner, the representative distribution grid of a given area of interest. The platform will be launched on this website in the coming months.

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