Distribution network operator

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A distribution network operators (including distribution system operators, suppliers network operator in Germany to the Energy Industry Act (EnWG) and Austria after the Electricity Industry and Organization and distribution system operators ( DSOs ); English Distribution Network Operator (DNO) ) is a company that electricity , or Operates gas networks for distribution to end consumers (private households and small consumers).

Technical rules for distribution networks are laid down in standards ( VDE , DVGW etc.). In Germany, operational and contractual rules are approved and monitored by the Federal Network Agency .


In the electricity and gas industry, distribution networks usually have a high degree of meshing with a highly branched structure and relatively low energy flows. Their operation is therefore specific, ie related to the amount of energy distributed, more cost-intensive than the operation of transmission or long-distance gas networks .

Distribution network operators must make their networks available to all end consumers, similar or downstream electricity and gas supply networks and lines, charging points for electric vehicles, generation and storage systems as well as systems for storing electrical energy for a user fee in a non-discriminatory manner . Made in accordance with the Energy Act (EnWG) has the operation of distribution over a certain size by a separate legal entity (so-called. Unbundling , including unbundling ) and thus on the trade and production function of a utility company are eliminated. There is no legal right (any longer) that a distribution network operator only operates distribution systems in a certain area.

Distribution network operator in the electricity market

A distribution network operator maintains power grids on the grid levels in the low-voltage , medium-voltage and high-voltage areas for regional power supply.

A distribution network operator is thus the transmission system operator (TSO; Engl. Transmission System Operator (TSO) ) downstream, the current transfers over large distances in high voltage networks. He is responsible for the safe and reliable operation of the grids in a certain area and for the connection with other power grids (in Germany as far as it is a general supply network according to § 3 No. 17 EnWG).

Distribution network operator in the gas market

In the gas industry, too, VNB refers to the operator of a network for supplying end customers. The end users are typically predominantly private households and small consumers who are connected in low pressure. The network itself is operated at a pressure of typically 4 bar, depending on the size and spatial extent of the DSO, and up to 16 bar for large DSOs. However, industrial customers and power plants can also be connected in medium or high pressure. The opposite term to the DSO is the transmission system operator (FNB for short), who transports gas at high pressure of up to 100 bar over long distances. Medium-sized network operators are also referred to as regional DSOs or regional DSOs, depending on whether the focus is on the distribution of gas to end customers or on the transport of gas to downstream DSOs.

Typology of the operator

Distribution network operators typically belong to a local or municipal energy supply company such as B. a municipal utility , but sometimes also one of the large energy companies that have often acquired such networks in the course of privatizations . In Germany, as part of the so-called. Plan remunicipalisation however, some municipalities to buy back the electricity / gas networks. Since not only the power of disposal over a network, but also a license to operate it is necessary for the operation of a distribution network, municipalities, as issuers of these same licenses, can exercise influence on the holder of the license when existing license agreements expire. As a result, this can lead to a return of previously sold networks.

Westnetz GmbH is currently the largest distribution network operator . Others see here: Electricity network operator and gas network operator .


The distribution network operator is responsible for recording the meter readings e.g. B. by a measuring point service provider (MDL), which he then forwards to the customer's contractual partner for invoicing.