Climate change: how digital grids help in mitigation

By Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General of the European power transmission system operators' association, ENTSO-E, (pictured)
Summer 2017

With his experience as a strategy leader in digital grids business, notably for Alstom/General Electric, Laurent Schmitt explains how they can help Europe build its resilience against climate change. He wants ENTSO-E to facilitate the fourth industrial revolution in the energy sector.

Laurent Schmitt, Secretary General of the European power transmission system operators' association, ENTSO-EPower networks are key in fighting climate change. They bring renewable energy to consumers. They will be part of this network of networks needed for the deployment of e-mobility, gas to power, etc. But they will also more and more connect consumers to consumers allowing millions of peer to peer transactions. And this transformation of the power system has great potential in reducing our carbon footprint.By 2020, there will indeed be in the world more than 50 billion of devices connecting prosumers with each other. Constellations of prosumers’ microgrids connected to one another will compose digital power systems enabling end to end transactions through blockchain. The sum of these systems interacting with each other will create the new Digital grid.

This requires a fundamental rethink of how the power system is structured. Bi-directional communication and flows, storage upstream and downstream the meter, as well as dynamic controls of flexible demand need to be enabled.Markets also are called to evolve to allow a new way of managing transactions along the energy value chain. From wholesale markets facilitated at transmission level, to market facilitation at distribution level and down to aggregation of prosumers' flexibility.

Digital grids will lead to new regulatory options, bringing new choices and incentives to electricity consumers and prosumers. Provided they opt in, consumers will be exposed to real-time electricity prices that will reflect scarcity of flexibility in the overall system. This in turn will help them make conscious choices.

European transmission system operators were again facing extreme weather conditions last winter with temperatures registered once in every twenty or fifty years. One suspects these severe weather conditions will increase as a consequence of climate change. Digital grids can not only help reduce our impact on climate but also build our resilience vis-à-vis the effects that we start experiencing.

I had the opportunity to directly contribute to setting up smart cities and neighbourhoods, putting in practice the Digital grid concept.

Projects like NiceGrid in France demonstrate that peer to peer transactions with the right hard and soft ICT can significantly enhance the flexibility of existing grid infrastructures and contribute to running a system 100% on renewables.

By a combination of centralised and decentralised ICT on grid infrastructure, in control rooms, at grid’s edge but also with cloud appstores, Digital grids allow for real-time assessment of grid congestion, security and asset conditions, thereby optimising the flows without endangering security.

They bring unprecedented scalability and computing capability for the management of the end to end energy system, from the control room to the prosumer.

ENTSO-E and its members are engaged in this digital transformation. One of our IT projects, the Common Grid Model will for example allow bi-directional data flows between national operators and regional service centres. This is not real time information but information to improve the planning and forecasting of the grid operation. And this new environment supported by a tailor-made IT infrastructure, a standardised & automated information exchange is just a beginning.

Can ENTSO-E serve as a centre of excellence, a facilitator to accompany this industrial revolution? Are there opportunities to develop tools in common? Can ENTSO-E, through this facilitation, accelerate the deployment of Digital Grids in Europe and thus contribute further to the fight against climate change?

What is certain is that Europe has what it takes to make this digital transformation. The skills and industrial ecosystem are there. There are examples of regulations and policies which support the digital energy system. The recent Clean Energy Package in its active customer dimension is a step in the positive direction.

However, the deployment of innovation, new business models taking advantage of the latest technologies, should be even more favoured in Europe. I look forward to working in ENTSO-E and with our stakeholders to bring this Digital grid from promise to practice.

Contact details:
Avenue de Cortenbergh 100,
1000 Brussels
Twitter: @laurentschmitt