REPowering the grid: distributing renewable energy across the EU

4Oct
2022
  • Dinner debate in Strasbourg

Chaired by Jerzy Buzek MEP, President of the EEF

Speakers:

Grzegorz Dolecki, Vice-President of the Management Board, PGE Dystrybucja and Member of the Management Board in E.DSO and EU DSO
Christian Buchel, Director of Customers and Territories, Member of the Management Board, Enedis and Chairman of E.DSO
Augustijn van Haasteren, Team Leader Decarbonisation and Sustainability of Energy Sources, DG ENER, European Commission
Zdzisław Krasnodębski MEP, Active Member of the EEF

The EEF held a dinner in Strasbourg to look at REPowerEU from the perspective of electricity distribution system operators (DSOs).

Grzegorz Dolecki, Vice-President of the Management Board, PGE Dystrybucja and Member of the Management Board in E.DSO and EU DSO pointed out that the electricity distribution grid is a key enabler of the energy transition. He explained that the structure of the power system has changed: the vast majority of variable RES across the EU is connected to the distribution network and new players have entered the market. Electricity today flows bi-directionally, and DSOs role is now to manage this bi-directional flow of energy while maintaining reliable and secure grid operations. Higher targets for RES deployment should be followed by higher investments in the distribution grid, which needs to be reinforced and, in many cases, either expanded or rebuilt to become suitable to RES penetration. Alongside grid reinforcement, a fair market of flexibility services should also be developed to ensure benefits to all market players. DSOs have an active role to play in this process as well.

Christian Buchel, Director of Customers and Territories, Member of the Management Board, Enedis and Chairman of E.DSO reiterated DSOs’ key role in the transition and the shift from a distribution grid only to a distribution and collecting grid. He added that the power grid is one system that consists of transmission system operators (TSOs) and DSOs working together. As grid operators, TSOs and DSOs share common challenges, and their cooperation is thus key to efficiently managing the electricity produced from RES and to connecting citizens to the energy transition. Mr. Buchel agreed grid investments and planning are strongly needed to ensure a reinforced EU distribution grid that is up to the REPowerEU ambitions. He finally mentioned the importance of increasing smart meters roll out, ensuring affordability of grid tariffs for citizens, and tackling remaining bottlenecks such as the shortage of raw materials and skills.

Augustijn van Haasteren, Team Leader Decarbonisation and Sustainability of Energy Sources, DG ENER, European Commission insisted that the role of DSOs as enablers of the transition is true not only for the electricity market, but for the gas market as well. Both electricity and gas DSOs are indeed important for the implementation of REPowerEU and the EU Green Deal. The initiatives proposed as part of REPowerEU to speed up electrification and renewables development will indeed lead to a structural change in the electricity system, with DSOs having a larger amount of data to manage and a major role to play. Yet he drew attention to the fact that a similar structural change is also foreseen in the gas market: the gas composition will be different, with part of renewable gas production also being decentralized, as it is the case for biomethane, and new consumers being connected directly to the gas distribution grid. Mr. van Haasteren thus concluded a system approach is needed, looking to what kind of structural change will occur for each type of energy carrier or source.

Prof. Zdzisław Krasnodębski MEP, Active Member of the EEF, who worked as Rapporteur on the TEN-E Regulation then made some comments. He noticed the role of DSOs was quite neglected in the past, but this has started to change. The pursuit of a dual objective – emissions reduction and energy security – is leading to a transformation of the energy system in which DSOs play an increasingly important role. MEP Krasnodębski shared some personal thoughts on the extent to which an external authority could be needed to ensure security and stability in the new emerging energy market and suggested this could be a matter of reflection. What is certain, he concluded, is that support shall be granted to DSOs and to infrastructure, as they are key enablers of the ongoing transformation.

The interventions were followed by a Q&A session during which the speakers, the EEF Members and the MEPs in the audience exchanged on further issues spanning from bottlenecks to be overcome, to estimation of investment needs, to actions required at regulatory level.