Last update : 12.06.2018
gas & electricity

Smart grids

Given rising decentralised electricity generation combined with the growth of renewable energy, the appearance of new uses (heat pumps, electric vehicles, self-consumption, etc.), greenhouse gas emission reduction targets, etc., the energy sector is experiencing significant changes.
Meeting these challenges and delivering a cost-effective energy transition means making energy networks more flexible and smarter.

More flexible, more intelligent, smarter grids

Integrating new information and communication technology for new uses

A smart grid involves new information and communication technology (NICT) to develop a multitude of new uses. Making grids smarter by equipping them with NICT is ultimately about improving energy supply:

  • for grid operators, smart grids make the network more adaptable. This boosts the resilience of the electricity system to optimise power supply reliability and quality levels, while making it easier to introduce new types of energy production in grids, particularly renewable energy (wind and solar), which are both intermittent and decentralised;
  • for consumers, smart grids make them proper stakeholders in the energy system, or "consum'actors". With smart grids, they can monitor their consumption in real time and, if needed, control and alter their behaviour by playing an active role in how the electricity system works.

Managing consumption

Until recently, the balance in the energy system mainly depended on managing the energy supply (production) based on demand (consumption) according to the best supply and cost conditions.

With smart grids, consumption can be tailored to production, which is why "consum'actors" play a vital role. Smart electricity meters, like Linky, or their natural gas equivalents, such as Gazpar, are among the first additions to France's future energy grids.

Bring complementarities into play

Introducing smart grids forms an alternative to a colossal grid replacement and upgrade programme, by bringing complementarities into play and ultimately, structuring all energy networks (gas, electricity, heating, cooling).

Natural gas networks, in particular, are diversifying compared to their traditional use of delivering natural gas to the final consumer. They can provide the electricity system with complementarity as a part of the supply/demand balance by running hybrid heat pumps or micro-combined heat and power systems to generate decentralised electricity. With power-to-gas technology, they could even help build intermittent renewable energy into electricity grid networks.

 

The CRE smart grid approach

The CRE supports the process for energy networks to become smart grids and verifies that their introduction benefits the community while respecting mutual territorial interests.

Facilitating the smart grid community and informing consumers

The CRE has been running a scheme to inform and share expertise on smart grids since 2010:

  • it has, in particular, created the first French institutional think tank on smart grids and organised an inaugural institutional symposium on the subject in January 2010;
  • it manages a collaborative website dedicated to smart grids (www.smartgrids-cre.fr). This is a dissemination tool for research and experimental work conducted in France. It also organises forums every three years, an information meeting and discussions on smart grid-related topics;
  • it has published  more than twenty-six reports since 2010 on subjects like smart meters, electric vehicles, smart buildings, hydrogen, smart grids in Germany, storage, blockchain, etc. ;
  • it began a series of regional round table discussions in 2012 (Île-de-France, PACA, Brittany, Rhône-Alpes, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Pays de la Loire, island areas) on governing smart grid projects run by local authorities.

Monitoring feedback from demonstrator initiatives

Over the years, the development of smart grids has reached major milestones. Although numerous technical, social and economic questions about future grids remain, concrete trials are currently ensuring that the technical feasibility and economic advantages of developing smart grids are tried and tested.

With these local initiatives, new questions are emerging on the regulation which will be reviewed to better fit France's new energy landscape. It is important for the CRE to anticipate these potential changes in power grids regulations and governance and to ensure they fall into line with European, national targets and local initiatives. This is why it is particularly attentive to feedback from smart grid demonstrators.

The CRE's recommendations

Upon completion of the public consultation in late 2013, the CRE published 62 recommendations in successive deliberations dated 12 June 2014, 25 February 2015 and 8 December 2016. These concerned changes to the legal, technical and economic framework to foster the development of smart electricity and natural gas grids.

At the same time, CRE asked public electricity and natural gas grid operators supplying more than 100,000 customers to provide it with a road map outlining their actions to encourage the development of smart grids. Relevant grid operators, on the request of the CRE, annually update these road maps.

The CRE also introduced a fifth set of tariffs for the use of public electricity grids (called TURPE 5), applicable from 2107 to 2021. This is a specific scheme to ensure that grid operators have the resources required to finance R&D costs and introduce smart grids.