Standardisation is crucial for addressing the communication needs of grid management, balancing, and interfacing with the increasing number of renewable energy sources. It is also essential for the complex interactions of the distributed energy market, which includes demand-side response services, and the transition to electric vehicles and the integration of smart homes and buildings.
Under the Smart Grids Task Force, the European Commission has made significant progress towards achieving interoperability and standardisation, culminating in the successful completion of the Standardisation Mandate M490 to European Standardisation Organisations (ESOs) to support European Smart Grid deployment. Currently, the Commission is working with the Smart Grids Task Force to develop implementing acts for metering and consumption data interoperability, network codes on demand-response and cybersecurity, and good practices and recommendations for swift consumer mobilisation engagement to reduce their electricity demand.
Figure 1: The Smart Grid Architecture Model (SGAM) Framework (Source: CEN-CENELEC-ETSI Smart Grid Coordination Group)
A notable success story of standardisation is the creation of a common interoperability language known as Smart Appliances Reference (SAREF) by the Commission in collaboration with stakeholders. SAREF became a standard of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) and oneM2M – the global initiative for IoT standardisation – in 2015 and has been implemented in commercial white goods products of leading European suppliers since 2017. SAREF later evolved into a modular ontology with extensions for different verticals, including energy, paving the way for the creation of an interoperable IoT ecosystem.
Figure 2: Towards a common language for demand-side flexibility (Source: EEBUS)
The SAREF ontology and its SAREF4ENER and SAREF4Building extensions are currently being piloted on a large scale within the framework of the Horizon 2020-funded project InterConnect.
The European Data Strategy
The European Data Strategy recognises the importance of data in the modern economy, particularly in the energy sector, where new players bring valuable data assets. To support the development and sharing of data in accordance with EU values, the Commission proposed the Data Act, which will establish fair rules for accessing and using data generated by IoT devices. The EU has also announced the creation of common European data spaces in several strategic sectors, including energy. The Commission aims to deploy this data space through the Digital Europe Programme in 2023-2024, following the launch of several Horizon Europe energy data space projects. Striking the right balance between general rules and sector-specific rules is crucial for successful implementation. The effective implementation of the Clean Energy Package, coupled with relevant actions proposed under the EU action plan for digitalising the energy system, paves the way for seamless data flow within and across the energy sector and beyond, leading to a common European data space.
A European Strategy for Cloud and Edge
To facilitate the deployment of next-generation cloud infrastructures and services, the Commission announced its commitment to supporting research, development, and large-scale deployment of highly secure, interoperable, and open multi-vendor cloud platforms and services across Europe in the European Strategy for Cloud and Edge. These cloud and edge capacities will enable common European data spaces and innovative data-sharing ecosystems based on cloud and edge solutions.
Once these infrastructures and services become available, the common European energy data space is expected to fully employ European cloud-to-edge infrastructures and services, with funding support from the Digital Europe and Connected Europe Facility – Digital programmes.
The growing connectivity of the European power grid poses new technical challenges, especially in terms of cybersecurity. As more devices become connected to the power system, they create more potential access points for cyber-attacks on a critical infrastructure. The centrality of the energy infrastructure for our economies makes it essential to minimise the vulnerability of industrial control systems in the electrical, water, oil, gas, and data sectors and avoid any disruption of operations. To deal with these cyber-threats that know no borders, it is imperative to have a permanent operational cooperation framework and information exchange in place.
In December 2020, the Commission proposed a European Cybersecurity Strategy, aiming to bolster Europe's collective resilience against cyber threats and help to ensure that all citizens and businesses can fully benefit from trustworthy and reliable services and digital tools. Whether it is the connected devices or the electricity grid that European businesses or citizens use, they deserve to do so with the assurance that they will be shielded from cyber threats.
In January 2023, the new Directive on measures for high common level of cybersecurity across the Union (‘NIS2’), and a new Directive on the resilience of critical entities (CER Directive) entered into force, addressing both the cyber and the physical resilience of critical entities and networks in the EU. The NIS2 Directive places particular importance on the energy sector by expanding its scope to cover more and new types of entities. The NIS framework will be supplemented by the Cyber Resilience Act (CRA), proposed by the Commission on 15 September 2022. The CRA mandates horizontal cybersecurity requirements for products with digital elements, both hardware and software, aiming to improve the cybersecurity of these products and reduce the number of vulnerabilities, which are in the heart of many cybersecurity incidents. A key element of the proposal is the coverage of the whole life cycle of the products.
Interoperable and open digital solutions, as well as data sovereignty, are key to the digital transformation of the energy system.
EU programmes supporting research and innovation, deployment, and cross-border connectivity infrastructure are crucial to the digitalisation of the energy system.