In the last decade, the EU has been deploying significant amounts of DER1 of various technologies in response to the climate change challenge and the need to enhance fuel diversity. However conventional large-scale power plants remain the primary source of control of the electricity system assuring integrity and security of its operation.

Levels of DER penetration in some parts of the EU are such that DER is beginning to cause operational problems (Denmark, Germany, Spain). This is because thus far the emphasis has been on connecting DER to the network rather than integrating it into overall system operation. Indeed, previous and current research projects such as DISPOWER have been focusing on developing techniques to accelerate the deployment of DER, and rightly so as this has been a necessary phase in the evolution towards a sustainable electricity supply system.

In practice, current policy of connecting DER is generally based on 'fit and forget' approach. This policy is consistent with historic passive distribution network operation and is known to lead to inefficient and costly investment in distribution infrastructure. Moreover under passive network operation DER can only displace the energy produced by central generation but cannot displace the capacity as lack of controllability of DER implies that system control and security must continue to be provided by central generation.

We are now entering an era where this approach is beginning to:
  • Adversely impact the deployment rates of DER,
  • Increase the costs of investment and operation and
  • Undermine integrity and security of the system.
In order to address this problem, DERs must takeover the responsibilities from large conventional power plants and provide flexibility and controllability necessary to support secure system operation. Although TSOs2 have historically been responsible for system security, integration of DER will require DSOs3 to develop active network management in order to participate in the provision of system security. This represents a shift from traditional central control philosophy, presently used to control typically hundreds of generators to a new distributed control paradigm applicable for operation of hundreds of thousands of generators and controllable loads.

Enhancing system security and reducing overall costs

Motivated by the wide range of challenges associated with operating the electricity system of the future, leading TSOs and DSOs, manufacturers and research establishments4 in the EU have formed a consortium of 18 partners to undertake a 4-year project codenamed FENIX whose overall aim is:

To conceptualise, design and demonstrate
a technical architecture and commercial framework
that would enable DER based systems to become the solution
for the future cost efficient, secure and sustainable EU electricity supply system.

1 Distributed Energy Resources
2 Transmission System Operators
3 Distribution System Operators
4 IBERDROLA, EDF, REE, NGT, AREVA T&D, SIEMENS PSE, LABEIN, W2M, IDEA, ECN, ISET e.V., ILEX Energy, ZIV, ECRO, Scalagent, Korona, The University of Manchester and The Free University of Amsterdam