As the implementation of the Energiewende in Germany is making itself increasingly felt in the distribution networks, this article explores how the growing amount of distributed renewable energy impacts the Distribution System Operator (DSO) and its responsibility for public values, such as the availability, affordability, and environmental sustainability of the electricity infrastructure. Although the German government’s aim is twofold, promote the energy transition and at the same time maintain a balance between the energy-related public values, it turns out that current legislation limits the realization of environmental sustainability as a public value, particularly where the Energiewende is taking place: at the distribution level.
This article studies the interaction between the law and its regulation of technology, the technological advances driving the energy transition, and the safeguarding of public values. More room for environmental sustainability as a public value would help German DSOs play their pivotal role in the Energiewende. Interviews and an online survey with energy sector representatives demonstrate that DSOs need more legal leeway, enabling them to give more consideration to environmental sustainability and make public value trade-offs that should be based on clear criteria laid down by law and decree-law and decided upon in a transparent process.European Energy and Environmental Law Review