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Recommendations for regional cooperation in transmission system operations

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Energy and environmental policy
Led by DNV GL, a group of European transmission system operators and EC- and member state representatives, discussed pathways to further European regional cooperation in transmission system operations.

ARNHEM, the Netherlands - 18 September 2017 Led by DNV GL, a group of European transmission system operators and EC- and member state representatives, discussed pathways to further European regional cooperation in transmission system operations. During this meeting, which took place last week in Brussels, recommendations for future system operations and particularly its governance, were discussed. Resulting recommendations can be important input for a discussion between European Energy ministers about the topic, in Tallinn this week.

Recommendations 
An important conclusion that could be drawn from this session is that further development of regional cooperation on system operations, should go together with (further) formalization of regulations and governance across the same geographical areas. Especially the role of European Member States in governing the development and operations of regional, cross-border power systems requires careful attention. 

This is required to align supply security principles, visions on system development and flexibility, et cetera, that set the goals that are to be fulfilled by TSOs and ultimately guide regional system operations. The continuous balancing act of theoretically optimal developments and day-to-day practice needs to be considered very closely. 

Further formalising the governance of regional system operations could be done through suggested Regional Energy Forums (REFs), that would bring together various stakeholders (e.g. Member State governments, market operators and regulators) in formal meetings to govern regional operations. The (currently still voluntary) Member State cooperation in the Nordics region and the Pentalateral Energy Forum (PLEF), formed by the Benelux, French, German, Austrian and Swiss governments (not including other stakeholders just yet), might serve as initial examples of first-stage regional cooperation in such a governance set-up. 

With this preparatory work, we hope to contribute and speed up European policy development on this subject.

Regional cooperation in transmission system operations
More variable power generation from solar and wind, and overall increased competition in the power generation sector, increases changes in power flows and lowers power generation costs. Consequently, transmission system operators (TSOs) are faced with increasing pressure to operate the European transport infrastructure as efficient as possible, to further develop the European internal market and make sure that consumers can profit optimally from lower generation costs.

Faced with these developments, there are different views on the way electricity transmission system operation should develop to accommodate Europe’s safe, sustainable and affordable future power supply. Both TSOs and policy makers recognize that, to facilitate optimal use of our European interconnected system, more and more international cooperation is required. There also appears to be consensus that intensive cooperation in system operations on a European scale, may be too big a step. Rather a regional approach (across several European Member States) is considered most appropriate for various reasons (e.g. efficient decision-making and geographic size of the operated area).

TSOs have acknowledged this by setting up Regional Security Coordination Centres (RSCIs) to coordinate national TSO operations throughout various regions in Europe. In last-year’s Clean Energy Package, the European Commission has proposed to integrate various TSO-functions in (supranational) Regional Operational Centres (ROCs). 

Governance of future system operations
Although the Commission’s proposal has raised the debate about how TSO-functions should be organized across regions, there is also the question of how to govern the future set-up, including the role of member states. This very important point was recently raised by the Estonian presidency of the EU. It will be further discussed in an informal meeting of European energy ministers from 18 to 20 September in Tallinn, Estonia.

To prepare for this meeting, DNV GL hosted a discussion in Brussels on the 13th of September to exchange views on how this governance could develop. Representatives from different parts of the European power sector attended the discussion: a group of about twenty TSO -, EC -, Member State representatives, and various experts openly discussed the topic in advent of the informal meeting in Tallinn.