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By | September 5, 2023

LF Energy Summit 2023 Recap: Embracing Open Source: How Distribution System Operators are Paving the Way for Energy Transition

In a session at LF Energy Summit 2023, Jonas van den Bogaard, digital strategy lead at Alliander, shared insights into why distribution system operators (DSOs) like Alliander are making significant investments in open source technologies (video follows below). The session shed light on the challenges posed by the energy transition and the pivotal role open source software plays in driving the transformation of the energy landscape.

Challenges of Energy Transition

Alliander, the largest distribution system operator in the Netherlands, is tasked with the crucial responsibility of ensuring reliable energy supply to nearly 6 million customer connections. However, as the world moves towards renewable energy sources and sustainable practices, the energy grid faces unprecedented challenges. Rapid developments in energy generation, such as solar and wind power, are pushing the existing infrastructure to its limits. This growth in demand requires new digital solutions to optimize the grid’s capacity utilization.

Active Congestion Management: The Need and Solution

One of the central themes of the session was the concept of active congestion management. This strategy involves dynamically managing the balance between energy supply and demand during peak periods. Think of a sunny day with abundant solar energy production, but also high wind energy generation. In such cases, steering the supply and demand becomes critical to prevent grid congestion. Active congestion management allows for accommodating new business consumers and expanding businesses that require additional power. This concept can be implemented through various mechanisms, including direct control and market-based approaches.

The Role of Open Source Software

Open source software emerged as a cornerstone in addressing the challenges posed by the energy transition. van den Bogaard emphasized the ubiquity and importance of open source software in modern IT stacks. He highlighted three key reasons why open source software is indispensable:

  1. Stability: Open source software tends to lead to more stable applications.
  2. Incremental Innovation: It facilitates incremental innovation even with limited budgets.
  3. Crowd Innovation: The power of crowd innovation enables solutions from beyond an organization.

Alliander’s Open Source Program Office (OSPO)

To harness the potential of open source software, Alliander established an Open Source Program Office (OSPO). The OSPO’s multifaceted role involves formulating policies, managing risks, ensuring compliance with open source licenses, stimulating contributions to the open source ecosystem, and leveraging open source practices internally. Through these efforts, Alliander is fostering a culture of collaboration, contribution, and innovation.

Open Source and Congestion Management

A significant portion of the presentation was dedicated to discussing the role of several open source projects, including OpenSTEF, Chef, Shapeshifter, and OperatorFabric, in addressing the challenge of active congestion management. These projects facilitate real-time forecasting, monitoring, communication between devices, and market-based coordination. By participating in and contributing to these projects, Alliander is actively building the digital capabilities necessary to manage congestion effectively.

The session underscored the transformative impact of open source software in the energy sector. Distribution system operators like Alliander are embracing open source not only to address immediate challenges but also to pave the way for a sustainable energy future. By collaborating with global open source communities, sharing knowledge, and leveraging collective expertise, DSOs are forging a path toward a decentralized, clean, and resilient energy grid.