Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


DISCERN Report Summary

Project ID: 308913
Funded under: FP7-ENERGY
Country: Germany

Final Report Summary - DISCERN (Distributed Intelligence for Cost-Effective and Reliable Distribution Network Operation)

Executive Summary:
The world of the Distribution System Operator is changing.

Energy use patterns become more variable with increasing use of low carbon technologies such as distributed renewable energy and electric vehicles, placing a new set of technical requirements on networks traditionally designed for centralised power distribution and predictable load patterns.

In parallel, the maturing range of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) solutions now available make it possible for data to be captured and analysed across the network in ways that were previously not possible, and to control and automate more aspects of the energy system.

DSOs retain the responsibilities of providing secure and reliable networks, ensuring a high quality of supply to customers and delivering this service in a cost-effective manner. To achieve these aims, DSOs need to change the ways distribution grids are designed, operated and maintained to accommodate, and take full advantage of, these new technologies.

This multi-dimensional challenge is at the heart of DISCERN.

The DISCERN consortium of eleven project partners is drawn from DSOs, technology providers, research institutes and consultants.

The partners have collaboratively developed novel decision support tools designed and tailored to meet real world requirements, and applied these in conjunction with a family of innovative technological solutions for monitoring and controlling LV and MV networks.

Information from the five DISCERN Smart Grid demonstration sites is complemented by the use of simulations to provide detailed analysis of the range of Smart Grid functionalities investigated. A framework for using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to assess solutions is provided, and the scalability and replicability of the technologies trialled has been evaluated to determine the factors of relevance for their cost-effective and reliable deployment and operation by other DSOs.

The SGAM and Use Case methodologies and tools developed within DISCERN provide an intuitive approach for communicating and building a common understanding of Smart Grid solutions, allowing DSOs to adopt and adapt solutions in keeping with the DISCERN ‘3L’ approach (Leader, Learner and Listener DSOs).

The suite of DISCERN methodologies and tools have proven to be of great value in supporting knowledge sharing between all relevant stakeholders. Detailed information on the solutions trialled can be exchanged in a clear and consistent way, supporting DSOs and others within the electricity sector in designing, implementing and assessing Smart Grid solutions in a structured and collaborative manner to deliver benefits for networks across Europe.

While each distribution network across Europe will have its own specific characteristics, the DSOs share common aims and challenges. The reusable methodologies and tools developed through DISCERN can be readily adopted by DSOs to help determine optimal levels of intelligence for their specific grids and network context with a greater level of confidence.

In addition to the tools and information on the specific technologies trialled, the experiences from DISCERN have been clearly documented to create a comprehensive series of recommendations to the following groups:

• Distribution System Operators
• Vendors and Technology Providers
• Standardization Bodies
• the European Commission
• National Policy Makers
• Scientific Institutions and Consultants

Electricity networks are key to providing the European economy with a high quality power supply that supports the competitiveness of European industry and helps the EU to meet its goals of increasing energy generation from renewable sources and reducing levels of carbon emissions to combat climate change.

Smart networks, using advances in communications, monitoring and automation technology to operate in a more sophisticated and efficient way are necessary to meet the challenge of accommodating low carbon energy technologies within distribution networks whilst maintaining security of supply and minimising the cost to the customer.

Through the introduction of advanced functionalities supported by enhanced levels of monitoring, Smart Grid solutions will:

• support capex deferral through ‘optioneering’, allowing DSOs to operate networks securely as more is learnt about how energy usage patterns are changing, potentially avoiding significant investment in reinforcement;
• provide flexibility in network operation, allowing fault situations to be managed effectively and enabling new load or generation to connect to the networks more quickly or at lower cost;
• support management of thermal and voltage network constraints, which can improve asset health and longevity, and enhance the levels of service experienced by customers.

DISCERN provides DSOs and other industry participants with tools and knowledge to inform their decisions on the planning, design and operation of future networks, and provides recommendations to a range of stakeholders involved with the promotion, design, manufacture and delivery of Smart Grids to ensure a secure and high quality supply for the future.

Project Context and Objectives:
With the changing electricity production and consumption patterns affecting electricity flows at the MV and LV level, the electricity distribution systems require new models of operation and an updated architecture to adapt to the new environment. The increasing range of ICT solutions now available to allow the monitoring and control of networks and power consumption behaviour can be used by DSOs to inform their decisions on operating, maintaining and managing their networks.
As the level of distributed generation from intermittent Renewable Energy Sources (RES) increases, the operation of LV and MV grids becomes increasingly complex. The RES feed-in affects voltage profiles, voltage stability and power flows, impacting on power quality as well as losses. Together with increased take up of low carbon technologies such as electric vehicles and heat pumps, the flow of electricity on the grids will become increasingly variable and less predictable. In addition, high levels of generation or peak demand will be restricted by the available network capacity and potential bottlenecks in the regional and local grid structures.
Innovative technologies are required to increase observability for operational purposes, deliver robust information to support an efficient reinforcement strategy, and enhance the controllability of the networks.
It is therefore clear that the role of the DSO in the liberalised market will change as energy distribution on the LV and MV level becomes a more complex task with dynamically changing requirements. DSOs need to change the ways that distribution grids are operated and managed in order to provide the required services to customers, safely and cost effectively, whilst ensuring high reliability and quality of supply.
The traditional solution of strengthening the grids by adding new lines and transformers, or to put it bluntly, ‘investing in copper’, is likely to be a much more expensive solution than utilising ICT to improve the monitoring and control of the network. The evolution to the ‘Smart Grid’ is, therefore, at the core of meeting these challenges. While technical solutions are, in principal, available to increase the intelligence of LV and MV grids, the complex task faced by DSOs is to determine the level of network intelligence required for economic operation while ensuring high standards of security and reliability.
These challenges are at the core of DISCERN. The consortium has initiated this project to create and use a family of projects to contribute to the objective of providing DSOs with tools to answer the complex questions:
• How much intelligence does a distribution network need to enhance security of supply?
• What is the most cost-effective solution for implementing this intelligence in the network?
• How should the ICT-infrastructure be designed to serve the requirements of a DSO?

To address the multi-dimensional challenges faced by DSOs, DISCERN has developed novel decision support tools and applied these with innovative technology solutions. Since many of the technological concepts that are needed are already common practice in other industries, the challenges and opportunities lie mainly in the transfer of this knowledge and practice into the domain of the DSOs, and so decision support tools and system design methods are key enablers to introduce these technologies.
DISCERN has implemented innovative scalable and replicable technological solutions for the monitoring and control of LV and MV networks and developed recommendations for their cost-effective operation.
The project therefore provides DSOs with tools and knowledge to inform their decisions on the planning and operation of future networks that will ensure the quality and security of power supply for the long-term future.
DISCERN features three key innovations:
1) the development of novel tools and methodologies,
2) the facilitation of knowledge sharing on cost-effective technological solutions through field tests and simulations, and
3) the contribution to ongoing standardisation activities.

Project Results:
In order to constructively address the challenges set out earlier, the DISCERN project has adopted a collaborative approach to the development of the technologies, methodologies and tools. On the basis that Distribution System Operators (DSOs) have common denominators with regard to their operations and the challenges faced, a set of reusable methodologies and tools have been provided, which can be used by DSOs to help determine optimal levels of intelligence for their specific grids and network context with a greater level of confidence. These methodologies and tools are also valuable enablers for supporting knowledge sharing.

The DISCERN 3L framework recognises and makes use of the way in which DSOs can learn and benefit from each other’s experiences.

The DISCERN Use Case & SGAM approach provides a common language for the intuitive representation of Smart Grid systems, making it easier for partners from different organisations and fields of expertise to collaborate in designing Smart Grid solutions in a structured manner. In addition to its use in mapping and appraising the use of communication standards in Smart Grid systems, the Use Case & SGAM approach has formed the basis for the simulations and assessment of technical solutions undertaken in DISCERN.

The DISCERN Use Case Management Repository provides a tool for validating and analysing Use Cases, and remains as a central source of information on Use Cases and SGAM representations that will facilitate future learning, long after the DISCERN project ends. Information sharing in a structured manner supports the qualitative and quantitative assessment of the benefits of solutions based on practical experience from the DSOs. The qualitative appraisals undertaken in DISCERN capture experience and guidance on the replicability and scalability of solutions in a consistent manner, together with observations on the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats associated with solutions. To augment this qualitative perspectives, the tools developed within DISCERN include simulation and optimisation techniques to investigate such things as the optimal placement of sensors and the design of communication networks.

A framework for the qualitative analysis of the replicability and scalability of solutions has also been developed to evaluate Smart Grid solutions. This assessment methodology and validation checklist can be used to highlight areas where detailed consideration would be worthwhile to ensure or confirm the feasibility of scaling or replicating a solution in a different network environment.

In addition, the DISCERN toolbox includes a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) framework through which the benefits of technical solutions can be monetized, based on data collected in the form of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and valued against their costs.

All of these tools have been developed collaboratively to draw on experience from all partners, and used successfully throughout the course of the project to trial and demonstrate their applicability and value.
Furthermore, to provide DSOs with a greater understanding of innovative systems for the monitoring and control of LV and MV grids, a set of novel Smart Grid solutions that achieve the DISCERN sub-functionalities has been implemented at four demonstration sites during the course of the project.

These field tests have been used to trial the applicability of the DISCERN Methodologies and Tools through their use with real world Smart Grid project implementations.

See attached file DISCERN Final Report and the three booklets for more detailed information (also available via ).

Potential Impact:
DISCERN partners have transferred and promote the knowledge and results gained within the project to the following target groups: DSOs, scientific community, technology providers, national authorities/regulators and European Commission:

•Distribution System Operators (DSOs): Within the dissemination strategy, particular attention was given to other European DSOs since the results and solutions of DISCERN may facilitate and inform the deployment of the Smart Grid functionalities within DSOs beyond the project. The project findings and conclusions have been distributed to European DSO industry associations such as the Union of the Electricity Industry (EURELECTRIC) and EDSO for Smart Grids. The recommendations of DISCERN have been shared through different platforms.
The DISCERN tools help DSOs in designing, implementing and assessing Smart Grid solutions in a structured and collaborative manner. The DISCERN methods for detailed requirement analysis enable domain experts within DSO organisations to identify relevant issues with regard to Information Technology (IT) security and standardisation that should be taken into account when deploying a particular Smart Grid solutions; these issues could be then discussed with specialists in these areas within or outside the organisation. The methods for semantic interoperability provided by DISCERN can also help DSOs adopt standard data models so as to improve interoperability across the systems and applications of the organisation. Furthermore, the DISCERN simulation methods and algorithms can be leveraged by DSOs to make calculations that support their decisions in relation to sensor location and communication infrastructures for implementing Smart Grid solutions to enhance their networks.

•Standardization groups: Standardisation plays a major role in supporting the implementation of Smart Grid solutions within electricity networks. At the early stages of Smart Grid system design, standard methodologies and frameworks are necessary for the common representation and agreement of requirements and architectures. This improves communication between the numerous experts that are involved in Smart Grid system design drawn from different organisations and fields, such as electrical engineers, Information Communication Technology (ICT) experts or automation specialists.
DISCERN partners joined IEC TC8 WG5 and the IEC TC57 meetings in order to provide recommendations as result of the work in DISCERN.
DISCERN has made a significant contribution to the development and enhancement of both the IEC 62559 Use Case methodology – an international standard maintained by the IEC SyC Smart Energy WG5 to express requirements of complex systems under design – and the SGAM framework created by the European standards organisations CEN-CENELEC-ETSI to represent Smart Grid architectures.
In addition to providing a common framework for expressing and analysing Smart Grid requirements, standards are also required to enable the increasing level of information exchange between the devices and applications that form Smart Grid solutions. DISCERN has contributed to the promotion and improvement of communication standards and canonical data models that help achieve interoperability for the evolution to Smart Grids, and deliver cost-effective solutions.

•Scientific community: The findings of R&D activities conducted within DISCERN can serve as a basis for further scientific research. Therefore, an open dialogue and knowledge sharing with the relevant institutions was of major importance. Discussing the project results and ensuring close collaboration within the scientific community have been achieved by means of workshops and publications.
Other participants in Smart Grid projects – namely, research organisations and consultants – can take advantage of the DISCERN tools for Smart Grid system design and appraisal.

•Vendors and Technology providers: The industrial community has been engaged with to share experience of the application of state-of-the-art technology and the technological developments and requirements identified during DISCERN.
Vendors and technology providers can also take advantage of the methods developed by DISCERN to identify requirements regarding IT security and communication standards in Smart Grid solutions, as a means to assess their solutions based on the recommendations given by international experts in these areas. Moreover, the simulation methods can support vendors in deciding technical aspects of the solutions that they propose to utilities for delivering a particular functionality.
A workshop was organised specifically present and discuss the DISCERN results and their applicability with vendors from outside the DISCERN project team.

•National authorities/regulators: Future Smart Grid functionalities and requirements for grid operation that will ensure cost-effective and safe operation under future market circumstances will also be influenced by and have an impact on the regulatory regimes. Therefore policy makers and regulators have been addressed with specific recommendations as based on the project outcomes and experiences.

•European Commission: The dissemination strategy incorporates the EC which, as a political institution and executive body of the EU, has an interest in learning about the project results. As appropriate for an EU funded project, the final deliverable and the supporting dedicated Work Package deliverables have been developed to provide recommendations on the technical and regulatory aspects associated with the evolution to Smart Grids in Europe.

List of Websites:
All the information about the project and results is available via the project website:

Information about the partners and contat details can be found in the attachment.

Related information

Documents and Publications


Thomas Wiedemann, (Senior Manager of New Technologies)
Tel.: +492011229390
Fax: +4920121229390
Record Number: 189284 / Last updated on: 2016-09-16