Enedis manages 95% of the electricity distribution network in continental France. It is responsible for operating, maintaining and developing a distribution network comprising nearly 1.3 million km of electricity lines. The company is also charged with allowing users non-discriminatory access to the distribution network.
“We see our role in ‘enabling’ electrical power distribution and empowering all stakeholders in the network, whether it is energy generators, suppliers and customers,” says Christian Buchel, Chief Digital, Europe and International Officer. “However, that role is increasingly changing as the nature of the electricity markets is transformed out of all recognition.”
At the core of this change is the proliferation of renewables, encouraged by a change in the political climate and financial incentives that are turning an increasing number of private householders into power generators. “There are two sides to the current growth in the renewable energy sector,” says Mr. Buchel. “On the one hand, we are seeing investment in big projects such as offshore wind farms or solar parks while on the other, the number of people with small scale PV plants on the roofs of their homes has also increased. As a result, we now have 400,000 energy producers in France and an obligation to provide them all with access.”
Renewables present electricity distributors with a challenge because power generation is not constant. “When the sun is out, the network is flooded with energy which then disappears completely when the sun goes down,” says Mr. Buchel. “We have to coordinate the needs of producers and consumers, and do so in an impartial manner.”
Of enormous help in dealing with these challenges is new technology. “The digital revolution, and the Internet of Things in particular, is helping us to improve the user experience,” says Mr. Buchel, who has been appointed President of EDSO (European Distribution Operators Association) recently. “With 35 million customers, we have a unique position in the market and see digitalization as a huge opportunity.”
One of the most important innovations in this area is a new electricity meter which is currently being rolled out across all of Enedis’s customers. So far four million Linky meters have been installed with 20,000 installations per day.
“This web-enabled meter gives consumers much greater insight and control over their electricity consumption, allowing them to optimize electricity use and hopefully reduce consumption and bills,” says Mr. Buchel. “Our goals for the future are the same.”