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. 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 latest effort 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 and 2018 the first two 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 2020 presents insights about the big DSOs in Europe (those serving more than 100 000 customers) through different metrics and indexes, based on a survey conducted by the JRC over the summer 2020. The study includes technical figures that confirm the increasing role of DSOs as innovators and enablers of Smart Grid features, like remote grid management and monitoring, customers interacting with the DSO, etc. Main policy recommendations are put forward to help DSOs being one of the main drivers of the European Green Deal and help the transition towards a CO2-neutral continent.

The study recommends the following measures: Adopting a common taxonomy of innovative regulation in the distribution grid across Europe; Gathering data on DSOs operations at EU level based on commonly defined technical indicators; Integrating policy targets criteria for DSO in the foreseen Investment Plans for DSOs; a common template for DSOs investment plans should be adopted; national regulatory regimes should consider including remuneration that focuses on DSO-led innovation; Paying more and more attention at policy level at the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.


Based on the collected data, we keep 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.

You can consult here the Distribution Network Models platform guideline.

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