MSE Research Project Database

Smart Grids: Future Distribution System Operators (DSOs)

Project Leader: Nando Ochoa
Sponsors: Local Distribution Network Service Providers (DNSPs)
Primary Contact: Prof Nando Ochoa (
Keywords: Battery Storage; Distribution Networks; Electric Vehicles; Photovoltaic Systems; Smart Grids
Disciplines: Electrical & Electronic Engineering

For Smart Grids to truly emerge, the traditional Distribution Network Operator (DNO) (or Distribution Network Service Provider as known in Australia) needs to evolve into an engaged, flexible Distribution System Operator (DSO) in which network elements and participants (consumers, generators, and those that do both) are actively managed to fulfil technical, economic, and environmental objectives. This requires advanced Distribution Network Management Systems as well as adequate operational architectures to ensure coordination across the whole power system.

Australia, home of kangaroos, koalas and more than 10,000 beaches, also has the largest residential PV penetration in the world: more than 1 in 5 houses have PV systems. The adoption of residential batteries is also growing at a pace not seen in other countries. The bi-directionality of power flows and the new behaviour of demand is bringing significant challenges to distribution companies who still need to operate and plan the poles and wires. But there are also many opportunities to be untapped if we find practical and clever ways of orchestrating these distributed energy resources (DER).

We are leading in this area by investigating the large-scale applicability of centralised and hierarchical real-time control techniques, including the use of multi-voltage level unbalanced Optimal Power Flow. Our research is also looking at the diverse interactions and unexpected consequences (eg, network issues) resulting from the future provision of bottom-up services, ie, end users with flexible elements (such as storage) providing services (eg, energy, active/reactive power, voltage regulation) to the national system operator or even the DSO. Understanding these interactions will be key to determine the most adequate architecture for the implementation of future DSOs.

The PhD projects will involve regional companies (data, know-how, and internships) and will investigate, from operational and planning perspectives, practical and futuristic approaches to manage distribution networks with high penetrations of DER in the mid- and long-terms.

What are we looking for?

Applicants (any nationality) should have an excellent academic track record in Electrical Engineering (or similar). Being familiar with distribution networks, programming languages, as well as distribution analysis and optimisation software packages is a bonus. However, we will also provide the corresponding training.

What are we offering?

Fully funded, enhanced studentships for 3.5 years. This covers full international tuition fees, stipend of AUD 30,000 a year (tax free), high-performance top up of AUD 5,000 a year (tax free), and international relocation assistance of AUD 3,000 to move to one of the most livable cities in the world.

You will be part of one of the world’s top research teams in Smart Distribution Networks. We are a family of like-minded engineers with diverse backgrounds who strive to produce world-class research. We have a very collaborative approach to our research and we also value the social component of our activities.

You can learn more about our team, projects and publications visiting this website:

Interested in this exciting opportunity?

Submit an Expression of Interest including your transcripts and CV:

Submit a PhD Expression of Interest

Smart Grid Lab
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