The smart grid at the heart of Smart Energy for a smart distribution network

The means of production are unique in that they always have an impact on economic and environmental development, whether positive or negative. The law on the energy transition for green growth (LTECV) has therefore set precise objectives to achieve more efficient, sustainable and economical energy consumption. At the heart of the energy transition issues through Smart Energy are renewable energy, energy storage and electricity consumption. In France, in 2020, the three most electricity-consuming sectors were the tertiary sector with 47%, i.e. almost half of final consumption, the residential sector with 38%.and finally large-scale industry with 16%.

It is therefore essential to be able to combine the race for productivity with the planet’s carrying capacity. It is in this logic of minimum consumption of energy resources for maximum efficiency that smart grids come into play.

And it is this credo of “doing more with less” that will become the roadmap for smart energy.

What is the smart grid?

According to the French Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (ADEME), smart grids are systems that enable the integration of energies in order to predict and anticipate more efficient and sustainable energy management. They are essential to achieving the objectives set by theParis Agreement and the Climate Plan in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing renewable energy and self-consumption of electricity.

The smart grid is an electrical distribution network that promotes the flow of information between energy suppliers and consumers in order to adjust the flow of electricity in real time and allow for more efficient management.

With the integration of renewable energies and new technologies into the electricity network, smart grids will ensure the security of energy supplythrough automated control of electricity production and communication.

This smart grid system, combined with new technologies such as smart meters, will help optimize energy consumption. This set of technologies allows to manage in an agile way the complexity of the flows introduced in a power network in real time.

The combination of digital and IoT technologies will make it possible to optimize the means of production, distribution, consumption and, if necessary, the storage of energy in order to better coordinateall the components of the electrical network, from the producer to the end consumer.


What role do smart grids play in the energy transition?

Today, the digital revolution and the energy transition no longer appear to be antagonistic concepts, but rather complementary. In view of the changes in the energy landscape, modernising the electricity system appears to be a necessity.

According to the French Energy Regulation Commission, the context in which electrical networks have developed leads to a preference for the deployment of smart grid technologies. The roadmap for a smart grid is to provide electricity from multiple sources while being widely distributed.

For example, with wind turbines, photovoltaic panels or hybrid electric vehicles. In these different cases of use, the smart grid appears to be a viable and effective solution, as it allows the storage of electrical energy for later use.

With more flexible control, the electricity system will be able to anticipate certain constraints such as the intermittency of renewable energies and the development of new uses such as electric vehicles or heat pumps.

In order to function, it requires the accumulation of a certain number of elements:

  • Control of energy flows

Connected sensors will be installed throughout the network. They will be able to indicate in real time the electrical flows and their consumption levels. This allows energy suppliers to adapt their offers to the demand and users to save energy.

  • Network interoperability

The electricity system comprises the transmission system and the distribution system. One of the objectives of smart grids is to promote interoperability between these transmission and distribution networks through the instantaneous circulation of information.

  • Integration of renewable energies

Renewable energies have the particularity of operating in an unpredictable way, as they depend on external factors such as the weather for wind power, for example. Smart grids, by forecasting the level of electricity production and consumption in the short and long term, make it possible to better manage their integration.

  • More responsible management of user consumption

Smart meters, such as “Linky” for electricity or low-temperature heat pumps for heating management, provide information on prices, consumption peaks, quality and level of electricity consumption in the home.

Users can then regulate their own consumption and aim for energy savings. An adjustment that transforms the consumer into a true actor of his energy consumption.

Despite these many advantages, the installation of smart grids is very complex to set up and requires the mobilization of many actors. This is where the Energy Regulation Commission comes in. It will thus accompany the evolution of energy networks towards smart grids by ensuring that their deployment in the territories is at the service of the communities.

And concretely? France has developed several smart grids projects, with some fifteen spread throughout the country, including three on a national scale: ENR-Pool, Modelec and Spideir.

The ENR-Pool project focuses on consumer behaviour. It will analyse their capacity to control their consumption in relation to the production of renewable energy. Modelec, for its part, is testing several models for consumption reduction during peak consumption periods. Finally, Spideir’s ambition is to establish a system for forecasting the balance of the network that takes into account the integration of renewable energy.

Local projects include the Smart Campus in the Ile-de-France region on the site of the University of Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, which includes renewable energy production facilities, storage facilities and a fleet of electric vehicles. On the scale of an economic activity zone (ZAE), we find the Smart ZAE project in Toulouse, and on the scale of an eco-district, the Confluence project in Lyon.

On aglobal scale, certain countries such as the United States and Japan have shown a particular commitment to the implementation of smart grids. It has been shown that the concept is not only feasible, but also viable and functional.

The issuex of smart energyare therefore entirely achievable and are made possible in particular by the integration of renewable energies and new technologies, such as electric vehicles, which are increasingly becoming part of travel habits, for example.

Although the initial investments represent very high amounts, the medium-term amortization now seems to be a given, due to the savings made in a sector where costs run into billions.

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