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Actility Smart Energy solution harnesses Orange batteries to secure France’s electricity grid during demand peak

French consumers and industry have been protected from power outages on several occasions this winter by Actility’s Smart Grid technology exploiting the capacity of thousands of batteries at Orange locations across France to mitigate the effects of high demand peaks and associated power surges. Actility has been working with Orange, RTE, the largest Transmission System Operator (TSO) in Europe, and Enedis, the largest French Distribution System Operator, to provide and activate a “clean demand response” capability in response to spikes in energy demand. The system has been called into action several times already, achieving a temporary demand reduction of 10MW initially, and more recently reaching 15MW.

“These successful interventions on over 7000 sites in a matter of minutes, clearly demonstrate the power of a Smart Grid enabled by the intelligence of the IoT to enhance the capabilities and resilience of the electricity transmission system and to protect its customers,” comments Actility CTO Olivier Hersent. “We’re also creating a new opportunity for Orange to create value from its back-up capacity, which is normally a rarely-used ‘insurance policy’.”

“To prepare tomorrow’s grid, combining electricity and digital, RTE is developing innovative market mechanisms,” says RTE’s Sales Manager for Market Services, Laurent Lamy. “The aim is to enlarge the scope of solutions that could provide balancing services. The use of these existing batteries is one good example of new type of flexibility having a positive impact on power system balance. We are satisfied that our clients take all business opportunities from services developed in France”.

“At Enedis, as a DSO, we are committed to facilitating market participation of distributed energy resources and we are pleased to enable this Actility and Orange initiative that illustrates the evolution of the energy system: decentralized and customer-centred” says Emmanuel Husson, Director of Customers and Markets at Enedis. “At the intersection of digitalization and the electricity system, such smart grid innovation will be fostered by the ongoing roll out of smart metering, and new business models will be triggered, relying on consumer empowerment and new technologies.”

Orange has over 7000 fixed telephone relay stations and broadband internet routing sites which are essential to the operation of the company’s networks. Sustained operations are guaranteed during power outages, thanks to a high-capacity array of small back-up batteries installed at each site. The battery stores sufficient energy to  keep the site operational for an extended period without external power supply. RTE, the French TSO, sends load curtailment requests to Actility in case of unexpected demand surges. 

Actility’s Smart Grid application translates those requests into control requests to the Orange sites. The local energy management systems switch over from distribution grid supply to using a maximum of 50% of the energy stored in the battery, maintaining the resilience of the site. The system responds within 9 minutes and supports the grid for up to one hour, and the process can be repeated if required.

To track possible impact on battery lifetime cost-effectively, Actility concentrates on the monitoring only a few parameters of the battery behaviour. Using dedicated algorithms, Actility could prove the accuracy and reliability of impact tracking across multiple sites, preventing the need to install dedicated hardware. Given the vast number of sites involved, this  significantly reduced implementation and run costs.

“We’re dealing with thousands of essential sites, so we can’t afford any mistakes,” comments Cedric De Jonghe, Manager of Actility’s Energy Business Unit. “We have to take all of Orange’s constraints into account in real time,  including the fact that some sites may not be available to us. What’s particularly interesting about this project is that instead of starting a diesel generator, we are switching to batteries, a  “green curtailment” which of course is much better in times of climate change and a new awareness of the impact of pollution.”

“We would like to welcome Actility’s initiative for its pioneering activity in Europe, which places France to the forefront of distributed energy resources management and energy storage innovation worldwide”, adds Cedric Thoma, responsible for smart grids, hydrogen and energy storage with the French Energy Ministry.

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