Building a stronger digital backbone to ensure the safety and efficiency of the electricity grid


A series of information systems are used to operate the French power transmission grid in real time. These systems rely on telecommunications infrastructure and different means of gathering and sorting data. All of these components together form the “nervous system” that guarantees that the electricity grid is observable, controllable and protectable. Work has been underway since the 2000s to digitalise these information systems and create a “digital backbone” for the power grid.

As of today, dispatching centres rely on a representation of the state of the power system generated by processing data from more than 40,000 remote meter readings repeated every 10 seconds, and from more than 350,000 remote signal readings produced every time the state of equipment changes. These real-time exchanges of data contribute to the safety of people and property, as well as to the grid’s performance since they allow it to be operated and maintained as close as possible to its technical limits. The boom in variable renewable energies and the ageing of electrical infrastructure are transforming how the power system is operated and maintained.

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Control and command


At the local level, substations have control and command equipment that continuously gathers data on the condition of electrical components. This equipment is the technical cornerstone of grid protection, observation and command operations. It interfaces with the telecommunication network to enable the transmission of data related to these different functions. Control and command equipment has been rolled out over time, integrating different stages of technological advances.
Initially designed based on electromechanical relays and then on electronic cards, today’s control and command systems rely on calculators and digital equipment.

The digitalisation of substations began in 2007 and will be completed between 2035 and 2040.

As of 2020, 36% of RTE substations had been digitalised.

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Telecommunication networks


Power systems rely on telecommunication networks to transmit data and orders between different levels (from the local to the national scales), and between system operators (French or European) and with system users (generators, consumers and distributors).
This is a field in which technology is evolving very rapidly. Over time, RTE’s telecommunication infrastructure has been upgraded to take advantage of available technologies and the services they provide (latency, resilience, service guarantee). Since the 2000s, fibre optics has been the preferred technology for telecontrol services.

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Control and monitoring


Control and monitoring systems guarantee the observability and controllability of the power system by aggregating all data gathered from the different points on the network.
RTE has access in real time to all data on the topology and electrical values characteristic of the system’s operation. This data is processed with analysis and decision-support tools, and orders that will make the power system function properly are sent out to the local level via automated or manual orders to the different components making up the power system.
Most of the existing information systems date back to the 2000s and are constantly being upgraded to keep pace with the growing quantity of data that needs processing (rise in the number of entities to be monitored) and new options for real-time analyses and action made possible by greater use of automation on the system.

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