ENTSO-E: The pathway towards common European network operation


The European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, or ENTSO-E, recently published the first edition of its research and development plan, which has been mandated by the European Commission to find ways to adopt common network operation. PEi presents the main findings of the report.


A potential HVDC grid in Europe Source: Claverton Energy

The first edition of the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) research and development plan was published on 23 March. The plan was required by the European Commission’s third package of energy legislation, both in Directive EC/72/09 and in Regulation 714/09, which stipulate that ENTSO-E adopts a research plan for common European Union (EU) network operation, by means of an R&D plan included in its annual ‘work programme’.

The ENTSO-E R&D plan takes into account the vision of European transmission system operators (TSOs) to meet the challenges imposed on the electricity community by EU energy policy targets for 2020 and beyond.

The TSOs’ vision leads to research, development and demonstration projects, which have specific benefit targets in line with EU energy policy targets.

ENTSO-E TSOs have recognized the importance of R&D across the whole range of ENTSO-E’s activities and thus established a Working Group for Research and Development (WG R&D), which will take on the cross-functional role of co-ordination within ENTSO-E of the R&D portfolio in all matters in relation to the TSOs’ business: system operation, electricity markets operation, transmission grid development, asset implementation and management.

The ENTSO-E R&D plan also underlines the need to define the interaction between TSOs and distribution system operators (DSOs) when smart grids solutions will grow from microgrids to large supergrids solutions or intelligent grids.




Given the enormous investments in transmission and generation infrastructure needed over the coming decade to replace ageing assets and to integrate renewable resources, innovation and R&D should contribute to choosing the most efficient investments that support system development, operations and market goals. Information communication technology (ICT) progress will keep opening up new, cost-effective opportunities for improved market integration while maintaining reliability.

The future-oriented concepts of smart grids and of a potential European supergrid exemplify this. R&D co-ordinated by TSOs and by ENTSO-E should contribute to a realistic discussion of these concepts in preparation for well-founded and well-tested implementations. The transmission grid is a key facilitator for the European low-carbon energy future.

A dramatic increase and fast changes in the power flow in several regions of the power system have to be managed by enhanced tools in terms of the latest technology in hardware and software. Although the resulting reinforcement of electricity networks can be ensured by a combination of existing and new technology, its implementation must take into account pan-European optimization objectives, addressing both the technological and economic dimension.

ENTSO-E’s R&D plan is aimed at keeping the costs of accessing the transmission grid under control, with major direct economic impact for the users of the pan-European grid. The R&D activities listed in the ENTSO-E plan include research, development, demonstration and deployment aspects. ENTSO-E is committed to covering four targets:

  • To identify the most suitable innovative transmission grid architecture needed to cope effectively with the 2020 low carbon electricity generation mix and power flows over the whole of Europe. There are several technical alternatives to connect offshore generation or solar facilities from the Sahara desert in Africa to the European transmission grids. Which is the most effective?
  • To understand and properly value the impact and potential benefits brought to the electricity system by deploying state-of-the-art transmission or power technology, in support of the chosen grid architecture. European manufacturers, who are world leaders in their sector, have already developed several advanced transmission technologies, such as high power semiconductor devices, Wide Area Measurement/Monitoring Systems (WAMS), power flow controlling devices or High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) lines. Full scale demonstrations must be performed to value the real system benefits of such technology, with the first results expected by 2015.
  • To design and validate novel monitoring and control methodologies of the pan-European electrical system in order to meet today’s and tomorrow’s reliability and security of supply challenges: How to cope safely with storms closing wind turbines or clouds passing by solar power plants without affecting system stability? How to introduce large-scale demand response approaches to withstand peak consumption periods? How could smart grid applications in super grids support the need to balance and stabilize the transmission grid?
  • To develop shared electricity market simulators able to analyze options for market designs and rules, and identify the ones that are most beneficial to both the energy system and consumers. For instance, weather conditions around some large European airports impact air traffic control in all of Central Europe because of congestion. The same happens to electricity transportation. Who should solve the congestion? Who should pay for the revenue losses incurred by solving congestion? Can renewable electricity take part in the spot market? Electricity market simulators will make it possible to provide regulators and governments with recommendations as early as 2015.


In order to be effective, the R&D work must simultaneously address questions related to system architecture, power technology, system control and market design. Moreover, it must be co-ordinated at the European level, since the success of the R&D work depends on fully understanding the pan-European transmission system, without neglecting individual TSO’s system responsibilities in their control areas (which is a local issue).




The full-scale demonstrations of the state-of-the-art transmission/power technology and off-shore grid solutions should also be co-ordinated at European level. This will allow for a drastic reduction in demonstration costs and will reinforce the TSOs’ bargaining power when negotiating the future procurement of the validated technology with its manufacturers.

National overall targets for the share of energy from renewable sources in gross final consumption of energy in 2020 Source: ENTSO-E

This is why the implementation of the R&D plan requires a new structural collaboration among European TSOs that goes beyond what is already performed within several EU-supported research projects, such as the European Wind Integration Study (EWIS), which uses results from detailed network and market models of the European transmission system for scenarios representing immediate and longer-term needs as well as, where possible and appropriate, common European solutions to wind integration challenges.

The implementation of the R&D plan also requires well-defined co-operation and interaction with the DSOs in order to get the full benefit of the smart grids initiatives. These collaborative approaches allow for accelerated innovation and to make the best use of TSOs’ scarce internal resources to manage innovation projects, with a view to delivering research and demonstration results on time, starting in 2013. This collaboration requires:

  • A dedicated TSOs framework to co-ordinate the R&D plan that is open to the participation of DSOs, generation companies and other stakeholders when relevant;
  • Covering 100 per cent of the TSOs’ expenses (around €560 million over ten years, split into €270 million for research and €290 million for demonstrations), since the expected benefits for European electricity customers go far beyond the mere TSOs’ concerns;
  • Advising the European Commission on dedicated calls for tenders to award contracts to perform the R&D work for the proposed functional projects composing the 2010-2018 plan;
  • The implementation of the resulting R&D projects by accredited research partners, which may also include experts from TSOs and/or technology manufacturers;
  • An open access policy for innovation results, with intellectual property rights (IPR) rules decided on a per project basis to favor their exploitation by European players;
  • Fair treatment of all interested parties, where the participation of a stakeholder is recommended by a dedicated Stakeholder Advisory Board (SAB), including electricity producers, DSOs, electricity retailers, end customers, representatives from the European Strategic Energy Technology (SET) plan, Industrial Initiatives, and the European Technology Platforms. Thanks to this SAB, the above energy players will take part in the plan definition and evaluation even though they are not directly involved in the R&D projects.
  • A program management structure that also captures the added value of the functional projects for Europe using key performance indicators, related to the European energy policy goals.





Provided that the proposed innovation R&D plan starts by early 2010, Europe will be able to deploy a power transmission system at reasonable capital costs without sacrificing reliability, while coping with the challenging generation mix required to achieve a low carbon future.

Hierarchical view of the issues facing European transmission system operators (TSOs) Source: ENTSO-E

This affordable and clever network is based on: optimal choices in architecture, implemented progressively between 2015 and 2020; reliable state-of-the-art transmission and power technology, with measured benefits starting in 2015; implementing improved monitoring and control tools and procedures, both for today’s and tomorrow’s grids; and novel market designs validated through intensive market simulations.




Last, but not least, transmission systems operators will be able to identify the need for new functions and technology. This will allow manufacturers initiating research and development programs to provide solutions beyond 2020, in time to meet future power transmission requirements at the pan-European level.

Further refinements in the program’s organization and stakeholders’ participation are needed, taking into account the following: the costs of packaging each project’s output into tools usable by any TSO belonging to ENTSO-E; future interactions with DSOs and manufacturers, which will detail some of the present projects; smart grids have an impact on TSO operation, e.g. ancillary services, and consequently TSOs and DSOs need close co-operation on their interface; and the implementation of the third energy package by each of the member states.

The release of the ENTSO-E R&D plan does not address the issues related to funding and managing the program. The following basic principles can be used to summarize these issues: the European objectives for 2020 require extra efforts when compared to existing R&D activities in the member states and at European Commission level.

A significant part of these efforts should be focused on grids; the R&D extra effort focusing on transmission system must be led by TSOs; the R&D results will be shared by all ENTSO-E TSOs, even if some are not directly participating in the projects; the efforts of TSOs, as regulated players of the electricity supply industry, must be recognized via a unique scheme, which covers 100 per cent of the costs (to give them visibility over the next ten years).

Taking into consideration the last two points, the organizational framework and management rules to manage the ENTSO-E R&D plan go beyond the current ones used in the Seventh Framework Program, which have initiated some joint collaborative R&D projects.

The ENTSO-E R&D plan is broken down into base work streams, which are still high-level projects. Some of the initial sub-projects have already been defined while others will be defined on a yearly basis to implement the work streams. Those new sub-projects have not been described, or even mentioned, in this article. Many of these could be defined, but instead the objective of the first release of the ENTSO-E R&D plan is to define the major R&D activities.

It is the intention of ENTSO-E to update this plan every two years. The basis of this document has been adopted from the work performed by a group of European TSOs (Amprion, Elia, REE, RTE, TenneT TSO, transpower, 50Hertz Transmission GmbH), which published the first draft as their contribution to the European Electricity Grid Initiative (EEGI), which focuses on the development of the smart electricity system, including storage, and on the creation of a European framework to implement a research program for the European transmission network.

To read the full R&D report, visit www.entsoe.eu


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