The rise of congestion issues with the integration of distributed energy resources at distribution level highlights the need for advancements in network operation and planning to prevent distribution grids from becoming a bottleneck in the transition toward a more sustainable energy system. In a recent article in the IEEE Power and Energy Magazine called “From ‘Fit and Forget’ to ‘Flex or Regret’ in Distribution Grids”, we explored the use of flexibility for congestion management in European distribution networks and reached the following four conclusions.
First, the rapid adoption of distributed energy resources, including renewables and electric vehicles, is already leading to distribution grid congestion across Europe. Examples of this congestion can be seen in the long connection queues for new grid users in the Netherlands and the curtailment of renewable energy in Germany. In response, Distribution System Operators (DSOs) in these countries started to develop heatmaps or hosting capacity maps to share information on congestion issues with grid users. These maps typically indicate areas that have reached maximum capacity or experience congestion management measures.
Second, in the coming years, increased grid investments will be necessary to control congestion at distribution level, but the risks and costs associated with overinvestment should also be minimized. Many DSOs recognize the opportunity of flexibility in distribution network planning as an efficient and cost-effective tool to integrate the growing amount of distributed energy resources at distribution level. However, a consensus on the actual potential of flexibility as an alternative to distribution grid investments has not yet been reached and is being investigated in the EUniversal project.
Finally, despite the progress, many open issues regarding congestion management in distribution grids still require further examination. Key research areas are incentivizing DSOs to incorporate flexibility into network planning, identifying the optimal regulatory approach to source flexibility at distribution level, and defining the roles and responsibilities of the DSO and other stakeholders.
Interested in exploring the full scope of our research? Read the complete article here: