E.DSO and InnoEnergy host the “Data&Innovation” workshop: A think out of the box approach for innovation in the energy sector

The energy system is undergoing fundamental change. This is particularly true for Distribution System Operators (DSOs) that are confronted with an unprecedented growth of new loads and distributed generation connecting to their networks. Fundamental change requires innovative ideas, fresh perspectives, and a mind shift in how we deal with new challenges and seize new opportunities.

Over 120 participants explored the growing opportunities that energy transition provides for businesses and customers that are connected to distribution grids enabled using data not only from the smart meters but also to the digitalization of the networks.  This was at the core of the discussions today in a high level technical workshop organized in Brussels by the European Distribution System Operators’ Association (E.DSO) and InnoEnergy, the leading engine for innovation and entrepreneurship in sustainable energy, supporting start-ups and de-risking market uptake of innovations.

The event showed how the growing responsibilities of the DSOs go hand-in-hand with the increased focus on consumers in the energy transition. Trends such as the increase of distributed generation and renewables, enhanced ICT capabilities for operation and management, changing dynamic inherent in the shift to decarbonized transport and the evolution of prosumers all make this transition difficult to navigate. While smart grids promise to transform DSOs to meet these challenges, the industry is also transforming as engaged and active partners, promoting innovators, entrepreneurs and enablers, that drive the research space, and commerce.

Dimitrios Papadimoulis, Vice President of the European Parliament, elaborated in his keynote speech that “Data is transforming the way System Operators do their businesses, not only by changing the way they operate their networks, but also by developing new services and products for their customers. Distribution System Operators are becoming datacentric companies”.  

Among the speakers were Frauke Thies, Executive Director of Smarten; Diederik Peereboom, Secretary General of T&D Europe, and  many InnoEnergy start-ups like Flexidao, DCBrain or Eneida.io, agreeing on the need to develop tools for customers to engage through DSOs with new products in a safe and reliable way.

Franz Strempfl, E.DSO Vice-Chair and Managing Director at Energienetze Steiermark, agreed with the Clean Energy Package, published by the European Commission, that “the customer is at the center of the system. If you bring the customers to the center of the system, you bring the DSOs at the center of the system since 99% of customers are connected to DSOs”.

Roberto Zangrandi, Secretary General of E.DSO, underlined how innovative resilience and digital safety for stakeholders and citizens – not just for the industry – and digital ethics become a major responsibility for companies. “The challenge for all of us” he said, “will be defining a socially responsible digitalization in our sectors. We have a great opportunity in front of us: we kicked off yesterday the new Network Code on Cybersecurity with ENTSO-E and the other DSO association. This is the first time DSOs are on equal footing with TSOs on network codes. And this is a testimony of the long lasting engagement of DG ENERGY and the Commission to acknowledge the role of DSOs in delivering the Energy Transition. So a great thank-you for this extraordinary step that allows today’s initiative truly to look forward with optimism ”.