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Publié le
Mercredi 15 Janvier 2020
Electricity has become an essential asset. The transition to a low-carbon economy as well as a digital economy frankly depends on it. Yet power systems are facing new challenges: the decentralization of production, and the integration of renewable energies, the arrival of "smart grids," and new uses such as the electric vehicle.

An electrical system historically centralized

From the outset, electrical distribution networks have been belonged to the municipalities. Their management,  entrusted to an operator, are part of a public service delegation. The 1946 nationalisation law completed the scheme with a national organisation around EDF.

RTE – Transport network at very high voltage


ENEDIS – Distribution network of medium and low voltage


This organization of distribution around of a national operator has enabled France

  • to establish solidarity between the territories;
  • to invest in new technologies by making its network one of the most automated in Europe;
  • to offer consumers a competitive price compared with other European countries.

A live electrical system

To these goals of security of supply and cost is added the imperative of reducing the emision of CO2. To achieve this an adaptation of networks is necessary.

A challenge for the network: integrate renewable energies

Renewable energies constitute fifteen percent of the total electrical power of the French fleet, and are connected in ninety-five percent of cases to the distribution network.

However, until now, the network has played a rather « passive » role, consisting of transmitting electricity to the consumer. Because the energy generation is intermittent, decentralized renewable energy production is changing the model. Now the currents are bi-directional. The network must supercede wind and sun. Yet the non-consumed electricity must reach the higher voltage network.

Ecological districts, local energy communities, smart energy buildings... the number of installations in self-consumption could reach 4 million in 2030, according to RTE.

Electrification of uses and smart grids

Electric vehicles, heat pumps, home automation... the transition to a low-carbon economy requires the increased use of  electricity.

The advent of millions of electric vehicles and "mobile" charging points to be connected to the network raises the question of charging infrastructures, and the management of power peaks if all vehicles were to be recharged at the same time.

Smart grids can help meet this need for increased flexibility through the more efficient management of the balance between electricity supply and demand.

But they also imply that the network collects large amounts of data, protects users against cybercrime, and provides such information to users.


The distribution network will, therefore, evolve  while continuing to guarantee solidarity among  territories. Because electricity is "a long-range industry", we must evaluate this transformation as soon as possible to prevent the risk, often underestimated, of destabilizing the entires system.

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