Stanislav Vojsk, Slovenian DSO SODO: Innovation Will Be Key
Date: October 30th 2020
Author: Alenka Lena Klopčič
The Slovenian DSO SODO has just concluded its largest and most challenging investment in the last three years, relating to the new EUR 4.5 million 110/35/20 kV Kobarid substation, after which it aims to construct a 20 kV cable network connection with the town of Bovec in cooperation with the Slovenian distributor Elektro Primorska. This year, the DSO also concluded an investment relating to the construction of the 2 x 20 kV Podlog-Ločica power line. According to the company’s Director, Stanislav Vojsk, further investments are planned, including a 110 kV power line connecting the 110/20 kV Potniški center substation and the co-generation facility TE-TOL; two 31.5 MVA power transformers at the 110/20 kV Postojna substation; and three 110 kV GIS switchyards at the 110/20 kV Velenje substation. In his video interview with Energetika.NET, Vojsk touched upon topics, from cooperating with the Slovenian TSO ELES to the subject of cyber security, which is becoming increasingly important due to the growing number of available data (needed also to ensure optimal grid operation). Additionally, we discussed the role of active consumers and learned that by 2025, all the meters in Slovenia will be smart meters.
Cooperation between Slovenia’s TSO and DSO is exemplary
“According to various national scenarios, at least 50% of all new renewables (RES) will be connected to the distribution networks in the future,” stressed ENTSO-E’s Damian Cortinas at the recent ‘Vision for the future of the power system’ webinar. Cortinas therefore believes that closer coordination between TSOs and DSOs is essential to facilitate efficient and effective access to distributed flexibilities (MORE). Commenting on this, Vojsk noted that while it is true that most renewables will be connected to the distribution grid, the effects of their management will also be reflected in the transmission grid, calling for active cooperation between TSOs and DSOs. He believes that this type of cooperation has been achieved between Slovenia’s SODO and ELES, who joined forces on some important development projects, for example SINCRO.GRID (MORE).
According to ENTSO-E’s ‘Vision 2030’, the evolution of the electricity system will require stronger cross-border cooperation to address the regional and pan-European challenges as well as stronger adaptation to local needs (to live up to the promises of new technologies), while achieving the same fundamental objectives. “The system of systems will have three main geographical scales – European, national and local – and all three will be equally relevant in the future,” added Cortinas at the said ENTSO-E webinar (MORE). In this context, the TSOs will play a key role as development facilitators, together with DSOs. So which tasks could await the Slovenian DSO in this context? “In Slovenia, the main role in this regard will be played by ELES,” said Vojsk, adding that due to the country’s small size, cooperation should also be utilised to develop the HV and LV network. Talks are also taking place with neighbouring DSOs about this.
Data, data, and still more data...
Regarding cooperation with electricity distributors, Vojsk said that the main focus will be the sources of data (on consumers; author’s note), adding that clear rules will have to be established on data management and on who will do the managing. He mentioned a common platform where all the consumer data can be accessed. The platform will be used by all the electricity distributors, as well as the TSO and the DSO. This will allow us to truly ensure the optimal operation of the electricity system, replied Vojsk in the concluding part of the video interview when asked about his thoughts on the recent legislative proposal on electricity supply by the Slovenian Ministry of Infrastructure. The proposal states that the DSO must enable, through a single entry point for the national data hub, remote access to consumption data and metering data on the feed-in and off-take of electricity without additional costs, in accordance with the right to data portability on the basis of personal data protection. “All the data must absolutely be available at a single location, as consumers are not interested in who the distributer is in their area of supply and in the arrangements between public service providers,” said Vojsk.
Asked about the importance of innovation at the distribution grid level when it comes to addressing the challenges brought on by the increase in renewables, EVs, and heat pumps in the network (and whether the current level of innovation is sufficient), Vojsk replied that in the future, innovation will be key. “Striving for new solutions will enable the development of individual companies, the provision of services, and ultimately also the meeting of energy requirements. Those that will not keep up will pay a high price,” warned Vojsk, adding that there are five power distributors in Slovenia and it would make sense to combine their know-how. “If we coordinate our work and know-how, this can only reflect in positive impacts for the distribution network.”
He further noted that Slovenian distributors are already carrying out a number of grid development projects, whereas in terms of innovation that could pave the way to a low-carbon society in Slovenia, “we are doing very well in certain fields and are fully in line with European guidelines, whereas in others, we are not as good”, although we have seen significant (development) shifts throughout the sector.
At this point, our conversation turned to digitalisation and cyber security. According to Vojsk, it really is very difficult to distinguish between all the said processes, however, SODO is actively keeping watch over energy security and knows that with increased flexibility and consumer adaptation, there will be even more real-time data exchanges. “Since this relates to personal data, security will play an even greater role,” he said.
This view is shared by the International energy agency (IEA), which recently stated that the increasing number of connected devices (smart thermostats and appliances – with global stock projected to double over the next five years to reach 30-40 billion devices by 2025) raises cyber security risks. Additionally, according to IEA’s recent Power Systems in Transition report, electricity is expected to play a bigger role in heating, cooling, and transport as well as many digitally integrated sectors such as communication, finance, and healthcare, whereas the electricity sector is “undergoing its most dramatic transformation since its creation more than a century ago” (MORE).
Additionally, as Anojos Nijk, managing director of the European Network for Cyber Security (ENCS) stressed at a recent webinar, “effective data sharing is crucial in order to accelerate improvements in cybersecurity technology” so “energy companies must look at cybersecurity as an advantage and nor as a cost burden (MORE).
Solar power plants and storage – the perfect match
As noted by the head of Slovenia’s largest electricity distributor (Elektro Ljubljana), Andrej Ribič, in a recent video interview with Energetika NET, today’s users are already becoming active consumers, although Ribič does not see them as possible competition for energy utilities – a sentiment observed at the recent online debate on the future of energy utilities organised by the Florence School of Regulation (FSR) (MORE). Asked about SODO’s perceptions and observations in terms of final consumers and how the segment of consumption and participation in the grid will develop in the near future, Vojsk replied that active consumers will definitely be crucial for distribution system optimisation.
“As electricity consumption adapts to future needs, consumers will play a crucial role, since they will also be able to assume the (upgraded) role of producers, becoming prosumers,” said Vojsk, who added that active consumers will be encouraged to participate in the system by favourable economics. However, Vojsk believes that the ideal thing would be for an active consumer to not only have a have solar power plant, but also a storage system, as such a package truly allows for energy self-sufficiency. Of course this also means that the DSO must have at its disposal “completely different tools” (from those used until now; author’s note) to manage such a network. Additionally, Vojsk does not see active consumers as competition for energy utilities.
Incidentally, a recent report by the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) stated that “empowering energy consumers may assist in placing downward pressure on suppliers to decrease retail prices,” adding that “consumers need to have the right tools to allow them to make informed decisions. For example, smart meters provide consumers with real-time information on their energy consumption, enabling their active participation in the market” (MORE).
Smart solutions can delay certain investments
the completion of the 2 x 20 kV Podlog-Ločica power line
- the 110 kV power line connecting the Potniški center Ljubljana substation and TETOL
- two 31.5 MVA power transformers at the 110/20 kV Postojna substation
- three 110 kV GIS switchyards at the 110/20 kV Velenje substation
- the construction of the 20/0.4 kV Rake TS and the 20/0.4 kV Stružnica TS with a connection to the 20 and 0.4 kV network
- the 20 kV power line between the 35/20/6 kV Petišovci substation and the 6/0.4 kV Rafinerija TS.
This article is available also in Slovene.