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Work in Progress: Marga Edens

Public value dilemmas for Dutch DSOs in times of energy transition: a legal approach
10:45-11:45, T 50A
Marga Edens


The energy distribution network reaches into the capillaries of society. It literally penetrates into houses, office buildings and factories. The fundamental changes brought about by the energy transition will have a noticeable impact on its use and, as a consequence, on the role of its operator, the DSO (Distribution System Operator). The DSO manages the energy infrastructure closest to the end consumers.

The paper centres around two concepts: public values and regulatory disconnection. It provides a study of dilemmas Dutch DSOs encounter in their role as safeguarders of energy sector public values.

The paper elaborates how these dilemmas can be traced back to current energy sector legislation not being able to keep up with the energy transition.

DSOs have the statutory task of safeguarding public values (understood as “properties of utility services”), such as availability, affordability, and sustainability. Furthermore, they are required to safeguard these public values in such a way that a certain balance between these values is maintained.

Research conducted for the paper (comprising interviews with sector representatives and an expert panel survey) showed that DSOs in their daily operations actually do strive for a balance between public values, but that the energy transitions makes achieving it more difficult. Three cases were selected where DSOs apparently struggle. The particular energy sector legislation DSOs have to comply with in these cases, according to the respondents, does not account for the impact of the energy transition, thus constituting a regulatory disconnect. The survey yielded the general assessment that in the three cases, despite their intentions, DSOs do not succeed in achieving a socially acceptable balance between public values, because the particular legislation is preventing them from doing so.

The apparent discrepancy between a DSO’s intentions and a DSO’s daily practice would suggest additional research into mechanisms that may facilitate DSOs in conducting a more explicit trade-off, which at the same time produces a public value treatment that is sustainable in terms of social acceptance. This, in turn, would help secure the energy transition its much needed public support.

When: 25 January 2017 10:45

End date: 25 January 2017 12:00

Where: Tias building