Bidelek Sareak, Advanced smart grids

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SPAIN, Basque Country. By Basque Energy cluster (Regional network)

Bidelek Sareak, Advanced smart grids

  • S3 domain: Energy: 8+1 strategic areas (power electronics as key enabling technology) around 3 main value chains: offshore, smart grids and resource efficient manufacturing.
  • Energy topics: Smart Grids
  • Innovation type: Technological
  • Level of Good Practice implementation: Regional 

Bidelek Sareak is a public-private partnership between the Basque Energy Agency (EVE) and the Spanish Distribution System Operator (DSO), Iberdrola Distribución Eléctrica, to improve the electric distribution grid and customer services by means of the development of advanced Smart Grid technologies and its deployment in both cities and towns. It is a real life project, complying with Smart Grids full functionalities, which is unique because of its scope, size, technical requirements and innovation.

Challenge addressed and targeted objective

Electrical grids are increasingly complex systems that have to provide a service to a large number of consumers and need to absorb the production of distributed generation installations. Bidelek Sareak aims to deploy Smart Grids to increase the security and efficiency of the electric energy supply. In addition, this project has been a priority to position the Basque Country as one of the most advanced regions in the world in intelligent network infrastructures, both from the energy angle (savings and quality of service) and from the business point of view, for its tractor role of the powerful Basque industrial sector which, with a high technological level, is competing in this area in international markets.

History: origin, definition phase, start and end

Bidelek Sareak has taken the EC Directive 2009/72/EC of the European Parliament, which states that 80 % of consumers shall be equipped with intelligent metering systems by 2020, as an opportunity to carry out a much more ambitious project to become an international reference Smart Grid project worldwide. To this end, a public-private collaborating scheme has been put in practice. The Basque Energy Cluster coordinated the Working Group with the DSO, electrical equipment manufacturers, research agents, engineering firms and service suppliers and the Basque Energy Agency (EVE) to set up a collaboration dynamics. The project was carried out between 2011 and 2016.

Governance, stakeholders involvement and target groups

The project stands on a public-private partnership between the Basque Energy Agency (EVE) and Iberdrola Distribución Eléctrica to develop advanced smart grid technologies. Iberdrola leads the Smart Grid Project from a technological perspective, to ensure that certain selected areas are recognized as reference areas on account of the quality and efficiency of their electricity grids, both on a national and international scale.

A Working Group of companies coordinated by the Basque Energy Cluster ensured the industry involvement in the project. Ariadna, Arteche, Elecnor, General Electric, Iberapa, Ingeteam, Mesa, Ormazabal, Pronutec, Schneider, Uriarte Safybox, ZIV and Tecnalia (Research Centre) have provided technological solutions to the project.

Stakeholders involved in implementation: 
  • Economic and/or innovation agency
  • Energy agency
  • Intermediary
  • Research actors

  • Industry
  • SMEs
  • Other: Distribution System Operator


The following actions were carried out in order to deploy the smart power grid:
  1. Smart meters. In the urban development area, the existing meters were replaced by new smart meters providing service to 410.000 inhabitants in the city of Bilbao and the nearby town of Portugalete.
  2. Smart transformer stations. In the urban development area, transformer stations were configured with management, supervision and automation services.
  3. New concept of transformer stations. In the rural development area, modular stations with a new concept were located in the towns of Aulesti and Lekeitio-Gardata and new smart grid services were deployed in existing substations in Ondarroa.
  4. Distributed generation. Medium voltage cogeneration plants and low voltage generation plants were integrated in the grid.
  5. Development and implementation of new services and tools. These are deployed in order to allow an efficient performance of the grid and to provide information to the final user that allows to analyze the way they are consuming their energy and how they can reduce their bills.

Funding sources

The total budget invested in this project is 60,000,000 euros, coming from private and public sources in the form of technology subsidies and loans. In addition to financial support, EVE contributed to the project with its vision and know-how on energy savings, energy efficiency and improvements in managing of energy demand for end users.

Public funding sources

  • ESIF T01 (research and innovation)
  • Regional Funds

Results achieved & Future perspectives

Results achieved

In short, this project has helped to boost the technological development of the Basque electrical industry and implement its technology in national and international markets.

The quantitative results are as follows:

  • 407.179 smart meters were installed in the Basque Country to replace old ones
  • 2.306 transformation centres with remote management, supervision and automation services were configured
  • 132 electronic relays for overhead electric lines switchgearI installed
  • 3 fully automated high voltage rural substations were integrated.
  • 500 secondary substations have been equipped with low voltage lines connectivity and advanced supervision systems.


Future perspectives

The next phase of Bidelek is currently being defined by a Basque Energy Cluster Working Group with the participation of Iberdrola, equipment manufacturers, research agents and public agencies in a 3 phases process:

  • Mapping of products and services of the new Smart Grids value chain and analysis of global trends
  • Identification of Challenges and Opportunities for the Smart Grids value chain in the Basque Country
  • Definition of projects or actions to be developed within the framework of the Strategic Initiative Smart Grids .

Most successful elements

From an economic and industrial point of view, this type of project has a very positive impact, not only because of the energy saving produced by better management of the networks, but also because it generates industrial activity and highly qualified employment. In this way, the Bidelek Sareak project is affecting the sector of power electronics in the Basque Country, a world leading sector, with numerous companies supplying the latest generation digital meters to the project and running the field work for the assembly of digital electrical systems. 95% of the project's investment has been contracted to supplying companies in the Basque Country.

Most important difficulties & Lessons learned

Most important difficulties

Overcome by the public co-leadership:

  • Vision of the Smart grids as a way towards Energy efficiency and demand response.
  • Fostering the role of consumers and facilitating information about consumption.
  • Financing of the Project and support to R&D projects.

Overcome by the private co-leadership:

  • Technological leadership of the Project, setting the specifications, requirements and standards to comply with.
  • Vision of the future electricity grids role and features.
  • Fostering competition between suppliers, based on technical innovation and compliance with open standards and equipment interoperability.


Lessons learned

  • The leadership of the DSO (Iberdrola) is a key factor in the deployment of the Smart grids: clear scope, technical requirements, financial and business case, execution planning.
  • The Project has been oriented towards innovative technologies in collecting, monitoring and managing data for improving the quality of service and has focused on systems integration and open standards, to guarantee interoperability between different equipment and suppliers.
  • Private-Public partnership has been important to foster consumer orientation (information and energy savings and efficiency) and for the financial contribution.
  • The involvement of a competitive supply chain is key to guarantee the technological development of high level systems and equipment, the compliance with standards and open systems and the interoperability requirements.
  • It is not only technology: the whole Iberdrola Distribution organization has embraced the change, and incorporated it to their daily work.

Ideas for transfer

Bidelek has benefited both consumers and electricity companies, as well as the sector's value chain in general. The grid's operation has improved and it has been modernised. The quality of the electricity supply has also improved thanks to the grid's ability to detect and isolate problems. It also enables consumers to manage their consumption and bills more efficiently. Bidelek has also promoted the integration of renewable energy, cogeneration and a charging network for electric vehicles on the grid. This initiative turns out to be an opportunity for the companies involved to reinforce their leadership in the field of technology and for the Basque Country to become a reference for Smart Grids solutions.

Type of practice and highlights

Type Highlights
Flagship project
Strategic programme 
Key actors Platform (for regional cooperation)
Relevance to national and/or regional energy strategy
Cross-domain interactions (R&D&I and energy)
High impact potential
Leading to private investments

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