Gas distribution system operators (DSOs) are a key link in the gas value chain and the whole energy system. They enable a smooth and secure energy transition by empowering stakeholders at local level. Through more than 2.21 million kilometres of pipelines, DSOs distribute gas in a cost-efficient way to more than 118 million customers in the EU, across the residential, industrial and power sectors.
Gas DSOs will become key actors in managing the flexibility required in the energy system as a result of decarbonisation and digitalisation. Natural, decarbonised and renewable gas, distributed by DSOs, can ensure a smooth energy transition; through local production, it can also improve supply security and energy independence.
The energy transition will bring about profound changes in the way energy is produced, used, stored and consumed. The speed with which this happens is set to accelerate in the future and will have significant impacts on distribution grids.
Gas grids, unlike electricity grids, can be managed to support strong fluctuation in energy demand. They are a powerful tool to provide flexibility to the EU energy system and contribute to a more decarbonised and sustainable European energy sector. Gas technologies can also provide flexibility solutions to the electricity sector: by storing excess renewable electricity as gas via power-to-gas and by lowering demand via (micro/mini) combined heat and power appliances and fuel cells.
As the EU’s indigenous gas production is in decline, additional import capacity, be it in the form of pipelines or LNG terminals, will be needed in the future to feed into the dense and robust EU gas grid.
Support for infrastructure development is fully consistent with efforts to develop renewable gas, which can help to put the existing infrastructure to good use in the long term.
Developments in the transport sector are already introducing a new complex system, in which internal combustion engines and electric motors coexist, both supported by a blend of conventional and alternative fuels. Within this new context, renewable fuels play an increasingly important role. Gas is an essential element of future low-carbon mobility: clean combustion, low CO2 emissions, mature technology, availability and low fuel cost are key factors to boost the role of gas in both land transport and shipping.
Gas has a vast potential to decarbonise transport, reduce emissions and improve air quality on land and at sea. A technology-neutral approach to decarbonising transport is required to achieve low-emissions mobility in the most cost-effective way. The well-to-wheel approach, based on the whole life cycle of a vehicle, should be part of any evaluation that measures emissions from transport. The development of gas fuelling infrastructure is important to increase the scale of gas-mobility (g-mobility).