What Is New? Platformization in Electricity Distribution

As in all the other network industries, digitalization leads to the platformization of the traditional infrastructure suppliers, albeit so far only at the decentralized level. In that sense, digital platforms have the potential to become the new interfaces with the prosumers. As in the case of mobility, digital energy platforms will now control the interface with the consumers (buying and selling) and appropriate the added value, whereas the historical DSOs will be reduced to becoming the transporters of the electricity. DSOs might well become commodified.

Currently, it is unlikely that digital energy platforms will coordinate entire national electricity systems. Given the current state of technology, digital energy platforms are most likely to be limited to coordinating decentralized electricity producing or consuming assets, including interface technologies such as batteries. And all this thanks to smart meters attached to all these assets. Figure 18.1 illustrates this evolution.

This will also lead to new interfaces: DSOs will be platformed, a new interface will be created between the digital electricity platform and the TSO, as can be seen in Figure 18.1. The platform will dynamically calculate the electricity flows: it will determine how much

Transmission System Operator (TSO)

Wholesale energy provider (electricity, gas)

Figure 18.1

electricity is needed from the high-voltage grid at any given moment, considering the demand and the supply within its platform. Of course, this will be highly dynamic, as supply and demand evolve all the time, but there will be more to the activities of the platform: the platform will not only communicate to the TSO the electricity it will need from the high-voltage grid. It will also communicate to the TSO the positive and negative balancing energy it has available and coordinate with the TSO as to the TSO’s needs in terms of balancing energy. Supplying positive balancing energy means that the platform can supply to the TSO the electricity the TSO needs to balance the grid because it may be short of electricity, for example by using electricity from the batteries of its customers. Supplying negative balancing energy means that the platform can turn off, thanks to its smart meters, the electricity-consuming devices of its customers according to the needs of the TSO. It will become the privileged intermediary between its customers and the TSO, as it has more to offer to the TSO than the DSO did. The DSO did communicate with the TSO as to its electricity needs (that is, the needs of its customers), but the DSO was unable to access the devices of its customers. At best, it was capable of accurately predicting and communicating to the TSO how much electricity it would need at any given time. The power of platforms will not stop at even the most complex and most demanding technological systems, such as electricity distribution.

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