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In the Loop

Taking an Holistic Approach to electricity supply systems of the future

At the recent CIGRE Session in Paris, CIGRE released its ‘Electricity Supply Systems of the Future’ leaflet. Focusing on this important subject will help to inform and guide decisions toward optimal reliability, security, economy, sustainability and useability of future power systems.

Electricity supply systems of the future is a major theme across many of CIGRE’s international study areas and this leaflet seeks to summarize the key technical issues and show how CIGRE work supports the development of electricity supply systems across a raft of areas. CIGRE believes that its work in this area will inform many sectors of the industry including governments, regulating authorities, system planners and operators, vendors, academics and consultants.

CIGRE produced a white paper in 2011 – Electricity Supply Systems of the Future, which considered various issues related to power systems of the future. That paper presented CIGRE’s views on the know-how needed to manage the transition towards the future energy supply systems. The paper provided a guide to the focus needed for new working groups and helped ensure that a coordinated approach was taken for all aspects of CIGRE research. In fact, approval of each working group has been dependent on identification of which of the identified key technical issues were being addressed.

Much work has been completed across several CIGRE working groups since the release of that paper and yet the key issues are as relevant today as they were at the time of the initial production of the paper. It was therefore decided to reinforce this with the release of the leaflet which includes a restatement of the 10 key technical issues.


  1. Active distribution networks resulting in bidirectional power and data flows within the distribution level and to the upstream network.

  2. The application of advanced metering and resulting massive need for exchange of information.

  3. The growth in the application of DC and power electronics (PE) at all voltage levels and its impact on power quality, system control, system security, and standardisation.

  4. The need for the development and massive installation of energy storage systems; and the impact this can have on the power system development and operation.

  5. New concepts for system operation and control and market /regulatory design to take account of active customer interactions and different generation types.

  6. New concepts for protection to respond to the developing grid and different characteristics of generation.

  7. New concepts in planning to take into account increasing environmental constraints and new technology solutions for active and reactive power flow control.

  8. New tools for system technical performance assessment, because of new customer, generator and network characteristics.

  9. Increase of right of way capacity and use of overhead, underground and subsea infrastructure; and its consequence on the technical performance and reliability of the network.

  10. An increasing need for keeping stakeholders aware of the technical and commercial consequences and keeping them engaged during the development of the electricity supply system of the future.

There is a raft of factors, including social and environmental, driving the transition of how electricity will be generated and delivered in the future. Key factors include international and national environmental and carbon management policies, grid congestion issues, integration of distributed generation into the grid, as well as the evolution of market design and regulatory mechanisms.

These factors suggest that two models for network development are possible; and not necessarily exclusive:

  • An increasing importance of large networks for bulk transmission capable of interconnecting load regions and large centralized renewable generation resources including offshore, as well as to provide more interconnections between the various countries and energy markets.
  • The emergence of clusters of small, largely self-contained distribution networks, which include decentralized local generation, energy storage and active customer participation intelligently managed so that they are operated as active networks providing local active and reactive support.

The most likely shape of the future energy supply systems will include a mixture of the above two models, since additional bulk connections and active distribution networks are needed in order to reach the ambitious environmental, economic and security-reliability targets sought.

For more on the Electricity Supply Systems of the Future click the items below.

CIGRE Electricity supply systems of the future leaflet 2014

CIGRE Network of the future white paper 2011