Distribution System Operators must treat data as crucial performance measure, says whitepaper


DATA and information could become an equally important metric for measuring the performance of distribution system operators (DSOs) as prices, capacity and reliability, according to the latest whitepaper from energy software firm Smarter Grid Solutions (SGS).

The publication outlines areas in which the company believes distribution network operators (DNOs) should invest in early as they make the transition to become DSOs, continuing the shift away from passively monitoring distribution networks to actively managing supply and demand from planning through network operations and markets.

Dr Graham Ault, Executive Director at SGS and author of the whitepaper, said: “Data may become just as important a metric of DSO performance as prices, capacity and reliability are currently.

“The quality of data and communications will be crucial to operating the distribution system flexibly while responding to customer needs and managing critical situations appropriately.

“Consideration must be given to how the new sources of data and information are managed, and how they are made available to key system and human users for a wide range of valuable applications.

“We are very pleased with the outcomes of our collaborative work with DSOs using new data sets to optimise the operation of an increasingly decentralised and smart grid.

“The increased volume of data from the field and from third party systems, could increase vulnerability and therefore, investment in cyber security is another critical consideration that we are addressing across our organisation and product set.”

SGS’s recommendations come in the wake of Ofgem’s recently published priority areas for early investment by DSOs, which cover: data exchange; forecasting and planning; network monitoring and visibility; flexibility trading; and flexibility dispatch and control.

In line with Ofgem’s priorities for early investments, the whitepaper recommends early DSO investments in:

● Data: exchange, handling, cleansing, management, storage and processing of a wide range of data for planning and operations, with a particular focus on cyber-security;

● Forecasting and planning: refreshing investment planning forecasts on shorter timescales to match the significant disruptive changes to electrical loads, including the growth of electric vehicles and the addition to the grid of other distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar panels and wind turbines;

● Network monitoring and visibility: significant development is needed to balance the need for giving open access to data monitoring across networks while maintaining security and confidentiality;

● Flexibility trading: flexibility trading capabilities need to embrace data, algorithms and platform technologies to compute, arbitrate and stack customer, DER and flexibility value with notification, settlement and reporting;

● Flexibility dispatch and control: flexibility dispatch and control philosophies should embrace: open information for all system participants; tariffs to incentivise flexible and efficient use of the networks by all users; new markets to purchase the residual flexibility; and real-time monitoring and control as the foundation to secure system operation.

SGS’s Distributed Energy Resource Management System (DERMS) platform, ANM Strata, is already being rolled out by UK Power Networks to connect more than 500MW of DERs to its grid, while SP Energy Networks (SPEN) is using the company’s software to connect more electric vehicle charging points to the grid through the ‘Charge’ project.

These projects demonstrate the required DSO capabilities for monitoring, visibility, dispatch and control, with links to flexibility markets.

The recently completed AI Forecasting project for Wester Power Distribution (WPD) showed the value of data and new methods to forecast for the flexible system.

As well as responding to Ofgem’s five priority enablers for early DSO investment, SGS’s whitepaper also calls for a ‘major shift’ in regulation to incentivise and guide the development of the new DSO business models.

Dr Ault added: “Regulators need to create clarity for DSOs on allowed business models and early investments in priority DSO enablers, including data and control platforms and flexibility capabilities.

“Regulators in our other markets are also engaged in these topics with grid modernisation, flexibility, DSO markets, non-wires alternatives, DER value streams, customer portals and other investment programmes underway.

“There is a pressing need to identify, agree and invest in the low-regret DSO enablers if the necessary changes are to be implemented to match the urgency of customer demands and the low-carbon transition.”

The full whitepaper can be viewed here.