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Smart-grids-flexgridThe Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) Region submitted the FLEXGRID project in response to the French government’s major call for Smart Grids projects, launched in April 2015. This vast project, led by the PACA Region and driven by Capenergies, brings together local authorities and representatives of industry and academia from across the region. The aim is to roll out new Smart Grid technologies region-wide, on a pilot scheme basis, to address the challenges of the energy transition.

A national call for projects to support the Smart Grids sector

Smart Grids are one of the French government’s 34 plans under the “New Face of Industry in France” programme. The FLEXGRID project was submitted in response to a national call for projects under this programme. The project’s aim is to roll out a series of mature Smart Grids equipment and technologies across a vast, representative area, commencing in 2017. The ambition is to galvanize the local economy and showcase France’s Smart Grids expertise around the world.

The winning region will become an early adopter of Smart Grids technologies developed by grid operators RTE and ERDF (at a total cost of €50-80 million), including more than 150,000 Linky smart meters. It will also have access to various national, regional and local funding schemes to support the emergence and industrial deployment of future technologies.

By 2020, the Smart Grids industrial plan aims to boost jobs in the sector from 15,000 to 25,000 and to push up turnover from €3bn to €6bn.

Universal backing

FLEXGRIDFLEXGRID comes on the coattails of various other Capenergies-backed experimental schemes in the PACA region, including PREMIO, NICE GRID, CITY OPT and INFINIDRIVE, and the recently certified Smart Campus Nice Sophia Antipolis project – all of which are helping turn the region into France’s premier location for the Smart Grids sector.

FLEXGRID is a joint project led by the PACA Region and involving Métropole Nice Côte d’Azur, Marseille Provence Métropole, Communauté d’Agglomération du Pays d’Aix, Syndicat d’Agglomération Nouvelle Ouest Provence, the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence Department, Pays Serre-Ponçon Ubaye Durance, and Communauté de Communes Provence Verdon, as well as various energy distribution authorities.

The FLEXGRID project enjoys strong backing from regional industrial firms, coordinated primarily by the Capenergies and SCS competitiveness clusters. Leading industrial partners include EDF, Orange, Alstom, STMicroelectronics and the CEA. FLEXGRID is also backed by a pool of innovative SMEs, alongside research and training centres.

FLEXGRID : a major region-wide programme

  • 27 regional projects and 5 projets cross-cutting projects
  • €150m in investment
  • 6,200 new jobs (estimated)
  • 1,180 MW of renewable electricity + 230 MW of heating/cooling networks
  • 145 entities supporting the project

Projects designed with needs and uses in mind

PACA is a truly diverse region, and the regional council has chosen to deploy the project in locations that represent global markets – areas with varied climates (cold, mild and hot), coastal cities, industrial and port zones, ski resorts, underprivileged neighbourhoods and off-grid locations.

Flexible energy is the common thread that runs through all the projects selected for the FLEXGRID programme. The 27 projects focus on some of the many ways to achieve optimal synchronisation of supply and demand:

  • Developing more robust supply/demand forecasts and more dynamic real-time installation monitoring technologies.
  • Identifying synergies between renewables (i.e. combining different types of renewable energy).
  • Improving consumers’ and producers’ load management, modulation and storage capabilities.
  • Leveraging a variety of storage solutions to improve flexibility and integrate renewables.

Smart Grids represent an optimised, dynamic way to manage grids, harnessing the power of new information and communication technologies. That’s why FLEXGRID features a number of cross-cutting projects that involve deploying a digital data and cybersecurity platform. FLEXGRID also includes plans to support SMEs and the wider Smart Grids ecosystem, with targeted support to help them access markets and major buyers, new dedicated training programmes, and international promotion and growth initiatives.

Citizens and users lie at the core of the FLEXGRID programme, with behavioural science experts called in to identify and deploy social and behavioural incentive strategies and help set up a Smart Grids behavioural science observatory.

FLEXGRID will secure more than €150 million of investment from public and private partners to ensure that these projects benefit the energy transition and economic development.

Potential impact on the region and France

FLEXGRID will help safeguard electricity supply for all users, especially across the east of the region. According to an initial regional economic impact assessment, the project is expected to create around 6,200 jobs.

More generally, the solutions and outcomes will give operators and public authorities the extra expertise they need to drive and support the energy transition in France. What’s more, FLEXGRID’s cutting-edge projects will turn PACA into a showcase for innovation and boost the region’s standing on the national and global stage. And, in doing so, it will attract new investors to the area and export its expertise abroad.