Distribution System Operators Observatory

The electricity distribution is the electric value chain's segment where most of the digital-enabled, low-carbon energy innovation is expected to happen. Distribution System Operators (DSOs)'s role has evolved and diversified along with the transition towards a cleaner electricity system, making them a key instrument to reach the EU commitment to climate neutrality by 2050. Check out our 2022 update aiming to shed light on the features and challenges of the transitioning electricity distribution systems in Europe. 


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, 2018 and 2020 the first three JRC reports on the state-of-the-art of DSOs in Europe. 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.


The study published in 2022 provides an updated assessement of the trends and issues affecting the electric power distribution sector in Europe. In 2021, the EU DSO Entity – the association representing the DSOs at European level – has started its operations, placing the sector at the heart of EU energy policy implementation, with new duties and responsibilities. The urgent request to deploy more and more renewable energy sources at an extraordinary pace to substitute imported hydrocarbons puts pressure on grid operations, while innovative business models and services, like citizen energy communities, and provision of flexibility, start to occupy DSOs’ investment plans for the future years.

Therefore, both innovation and provision of traditional services like grid connection are put under strain by a tense economic situation for DSO’s customers, European consumers and businesses alike. In such fast-evolving situations, regulation cannot focus solely on cost-efficient use of existing infrastructure and investment in grid replacement and reinforcement.

To this end, regulatory experimentation has emerged in several EU countries as a novel approach to enable innovation in the energy sector, while protecting consumers and ensuring a fair energy transition for all Europeans.

To download the Respresentative Network Models, please follow the next steps:

  1. Connect to the Circabc webpage with your EU login account:
  2. Ask to join the group: JRC Distribution Reference Network Models
  3. Wait for the confirmation e-mail
  4. Download the zip folder with the representative networks


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