Services & Solutions

DSOs Face the Future

Bram Alkema Apr 2, 2020

The current situation means that Distribution System Operators (DSOs) are having to strike a new balance between maintenance and upgrades, at least for now. Yet the fundamental challenges – such as ageing assets and new patterns of demand – will still be there when the crisis subsides. How can DSOs make the best investment decisions in this challenging environment?

DSOs are under pressure from all directions. Right now, the number-one challenge is safeguarding supplies for millions of homes and businesses. Looking ahead, the pressure to upgrade networks will resume. The difference is that the economy is likely to be tighter – and DSOs will need to justify every penny they invest.

The distribution challenge

DSOs face four fundamental challenges. The first is dealing with ageing assets. In mature economies – including western Europe, North America and Japan – this is a growing concern. Assets can be replaced, refurbished or maintained – but which? How do you make the best investment decisions?

The second challenge is supporting the growth of decentralised power generation – everything from small-scale rooftop solar to utility-scale wind and photovoltaic farms.

One of the major problems for DSOs is that thermal and voltage constraints on their networks impose a limit on how much new generation can be connected. Reinforcement is needed so new generation resources can be added. How do you decide where and when to invest?

The third challenge is handling new demand. Electric vehicle charging is the main driver. This ranges from domestic AC charge points for a single vehicle (typically less than 3kW) right up to large public charging facilities offering super-rapid DC charging at up to 350kW.

Grid reinforcement is needed to handle these additional loads. This will involve not only new cables to charge points, but also extra transformer capacity and upgraded cables and overhead lines to those transformers. How do you justify the case for extra investment? Can you easily explain to stakeholders why investment is needed?

Vehicle charging is only one part of the story. New domestic systems – such as ground and air source heat pumps – will also add to loads. And in the long term, power demand will grow even more as governments mandate electricity as the main energy source for household heating, replacing gas and oil.

Asset Electrical – made for DSOs

To help DSOs tackle these challenges, Nexans has developed Asset Electrical – a powerful asset management platform that helps you to strike the best balance between performance, operating expenditure, capital expenditure and risk.

Asset Electrical works by creating a digital twin of your network. This incorporates not only all your physical assets, but also your repair, renewal and inspection strategies. Using this as a baseline, you can easily simulate different scenarios. You can even calculate the impact on different network assets thanks to our unique asset-ageing model.

With savings of more than 10% of total expenditure and an increased return on assets of over 20%, Asset Electrical holds the key to getting the most out of your power network.

About the author

Bram Alkema

Bram ALKEMA joined Nexans as the business developer for Asset Management Solutions.
Bram is a Leading Asset Management Professional for the Development, Implementation, Deployment and Application of (Asset) Management Systems, Decision Making Processes and Investment Portfolio Management compliant with ISO 55001. He has 25+ years’ experience as senior manager of operational, tactical and strategical departments at energy utilities in the Netherlands.

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