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« No one can take smart grids forward on their own! »

The electrical power delivery grid revolution is under way at Enedis, the EDF subsidiary that runs the public power grid covering 95% of French territory. As the 2021 World Champion in smartgrids, Enedis leads by a distance in the roll-out of these technologies. We met with Yves Barlier, national manager in charge of smart grids. For him, collective working and agility are the keys to this success.



Enedis was named 2021 World Champion by the Singapore Smart Grids index in the category of electricity distributors. Can you explain how ? 

This is a collective French success ! A success for Enedis of course, which has proven its ability to transform yesterday projects into today's industrial reality; but also a success for the visionary academic world of French R&D, for the partner companies, all very involved and nearly all of them French (hardware, software, data science, energy market stakeholders), and for those public authorities who have supported Enedis : European Commssion, ministry in charge of energy, Energy Regulation Commission, government energy and ecology agency ADEME, regional councils.
In the AURA region, the Smart Grids Institute is a fine example of how to coordinate all these stakeholders! It's worth shouting about!


How has Enedis concretized this rise in power of smart grids ?

It's a groundswell that impacts our organization on 3 levels. First, on the industrial performance level, Enedis is busy optimizing the whole of its industrial production chain, from the conception of infrastructures through to their maintenance, by way of our processes. On the next level are customer/supplier relations, with the priority on customer satisfaction. And on the last level, energy transition in the regions. Before long there will be three times as much renewable energy production to collect and redistribute. Managing the variability of these energy sources will be increasingly complex and only possible by using digital solutions.


What in your view are the main changes brought about by this emerging market ?

Enedis is there to serve the regions, the energy producers, the suppliers, the aggregators, the consumers. We are not in competition with anyone and that changes the deal; our vision of the market is not the standard model. The biggest changes at Enedis are related to how we work. Not that long ago, we didn't bother asking the interested parties their views. When a project was mooted, we ploughed ahead with the development and roll-out without any outside advice. These days, all our projects gather input from our suppliers and grid users as they advance, progressively and deliberately. This style of collaborztive working was initiated ten or so years ago with the launch of smart grids demonstrators. We were quick to adopt this agility-based work method. No one can take smart gros forward on their own. Solutions that might not bu fully finalized are implemented gradually. The process is in constantmotion.


What are the biggest factors in helping Enedis roll-out smart grids ?

The market needs manufacturers who can produce high-performance connected objects in order to develop new services. They must get totgether with software developers. Next, Enedis, as distributor, needs to be ubiquitous with a reliable, homogeneous, high-quality telecommunication network. For simple uses, there is no need for 5G. Even a 3G network can be adequate for implementing smart grids. There are however still holes in the territorial coverage. Finally, we have to be able to make the gathered data talk. A new trade has emerged in the shape of data scientists. They're the ones who can give meaning to data output. To do so they need to work closely with experts who know the requirements. Together they must exchange and construct in order to extract real economic value from these data. 


Where does your structure stand with regard to investing in or assisting these new dynamics ?

Enedis is a public service with a regulated business model. It doesn't go out looking for customers because they are already there, expecting services that perform for them. Our income depends on rates defined by the CRE (Energy Regulation Commission). This is both a strength and an opportunity. The government, the CRE, and the ADEME have offered good drive and support in our projects and investments. The Linky meter, which the government strongly believed in, was one of the first building blocks of smart grids. Linky isn't just a meter but a connected object attached to user-voltage mains. Its costs are offset by the gains it enables.


Speaking of which, what role does the Linky meter play in smart grids ?

These days, thanks to Linky, operators no longer have to go out to read meters : they are read remotely. The electrical power quota of a home can be increased to suit changing needs without on-site intervention. Similarly, Enedis is able to locate and even sometimes anticipate faults and outages and repair them while the consumer remains blissfully unaware. Linky is also working toward the ecological transition. It will help in management of grid complexity caused by the variability of renewables and also in the necessary flexibilityof consumption. Industries, for example, can run their manufacturing process during wind or solar energy production peaks and plan their production throughs to coincide with low periods of wind or sun. The adaptation of industrial or retail park consumptions will be monetizable. There's a real flexibility market emerging and we are going to provide assistance by tweaking the user's behaviour patterns. Linky is a really great example of industrial performance.