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DSO Conference Wrap-Up

It’s a wrap from the Norwegian DSO conference! 

Hansen had the opportunity to engage with leading energy DSOs from Norway last week, who shared their perspectives on their journey from a traditional utility to a digital service provider. The message from the DSO conference (Nettkonferansen) in Norway was clear: DSOs are becoming the heart of electrification and energy transition. To realise the transition, they recognise customers being a catalyst.

In previous years, the DSO conference has mainly focused on the Smart Meters and technical aspects of maintaining the grid. This year, the tone of voice was very different, with a major focus on the customer and how to create better service and business operations for the generation Z of customers. In my view, the event has grown significantly in terms of the number of attendees, exhibitors and most importantly the ‘energy’ the event generated. This great energy is coming from many directions: Decarbonisation implies an energy transition is on the way.

Statnett (TSO) is predicting that total electricity consumption will increase by 25% from 133 to 166 TWh by 2050 because of ongoing decarbonising of all industries. The increased focus on renewables and local production fundamentally alters how we produce, use, store and trade electricity. This includes more active customers with varying electricity demand, self-generation, small-scale renewable generation, energy storage, power-to-heat and electric vehicles.

DSOs are evolving from a traditional directional value chain to a complex and cohesive energy landscape, transforming the DSO role into a data-driven business. A cool development of something that was considered only interesting for highly specialised engineers! Now we are a part of the mission to save the planet from global heating.

Customers are key to unlock the potential 

DSO front-runners have understood that business model innovation is necessary to cope with the disruptive technology development. They are on the track to re-think and re-organise to act on long-term trends right now.

Being able to use decentralised flexibility sources has strategic importance for the future electricity system. For DSOs, the need for flexibility warrants greater interaction with network customers. This will help garner the significant economic value from an optimised relationship between investments in conventional grid. Now, I can say that I still remember confronting DSOs ahead of the Datahub project, trying to put forward the argument that customers will still be very important for their future service models.

Given the changing energy dynamics, the current model of ‘connect and reinforce’ will need to overcome the passive relationship between the DSO and network customer. Many of the speakers mentioned that future innovation must be based on customer value. Key drivers for the growing importance are things like;
Smart meter interaction, Peak tariffs, EV charge, Social Media, Earth fault, Prosumers, Bus charge, Home Area Network, Voltage level, Connection requests of e.g. of solar panels, etc. According to NVE, we can save as much as NOK 11 billion in the electricity grid by charging electric cars at times of the day when electricity consumption is generally low.

Consolidation initiatives

Not sure if we can refer to it as the “elephant in the room”, but the ongoing discussion after the DSO Conference about how to measure DSO efficiency outlines to some degree that size matters. DSOs are natural monopolies and therefore have a regulated revenue side, where its return is regulated through comparative analysis of cost-effectiveness. Size and scale in operations and procurement, the possibility of continuous bench-marking and the introduction of best practices are thus important competitive factors.

Several demands and regulatory changes are driving the energy industry in the direction of larger and more independent DSO companies. The energy transition requires new competence within digitalisation, therefore we have most certainly not seen the endgame of consolidations.

Hansen’s View

Hansen believes it to be even more important now that DSOs need to look at their business models and decide what role they want to play in the future. Hansen has a lot to say in enabling DSO`s to deliver digital information channels for customers and suppliers, and develop digitised platforms for streamlined customer enquiries, connections and installations.

To unlock the potential of a customer-centric and data-driven business, companies must build an architecture where service innovation becomes the DNA for customer experience. This will create visibility over power flows, loads and connections at the distribution level. Smart grid solutions will enable data visualisation, dispatch simulation and long-term asset optimisation. At the same time, DSOs will need to expand the deployment of sensors across the network to monitor DER (Distributed Energy Resources) at all voltage levels, including remote monitoring, controls and automation of data exchanges.

For a deeper dive into the European DSO market, check out our ‘Energy Transition – Future of DSO’ where we further explore the DSO role in the ongoing energy transition and how together we can address ways to win the new energy customer. 

By Stian Madsen who focuses on guiding utility companies through the ongoing industry transformation, where delivering a personalised energy experience to energy consumers is a key factor.