RTE, an independent subsidiary of EDF, is the French electricity transmission system operator. It is a public service company responsible for operating, maintaining and developing the high and extra high voltage network. It guarantees the reliability and proper operation of the power network.
RTE transports electricity between electricity suppliers (French and European) and consumers, whether they are electricity distributors or industrial consumers directly connected to the transmission system.
With 100,000 km of lines between 63,000 and 400,000 volts and 45 cross-border lines, the network operated by RTE is the biggest in Europe. In 2008, RTE posted turnover of €4,221m and currently employs around 8,500 staff.
Although the electricity market is opening up to competition, the networks remain monopolies by nature. In addition, electricity cannot be stored and the balance between generation and demand therefore requires constant coordination by a neutral and independent body: the transmission system operator (TSO).
Guaranteeing a high level public service
RTE performs a range of important public service roles defined by French law (Law of February 2000 and August 2004). These roles are set out in the public service agreement signed with the State and carried out under the aegis of the French energy regulator, CRE, whose responsibilities include setting the rate charged for using the public transmission and distribution networks (otherwise known as the "TURPE" charge).
The public service agreement, signed in 2005, guarantees a high level of public service for electricity in France.
It stipulates RTE's commitments, with a view to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the public service missions entrusted to the company by law, in two particular areas: management of the public transmission network and the reliability of the power system.
Managing network infrastructures
RTE is required, at the fairest cost to the public authorities, to maintain, strengthen and develop the network to meet demand, whilst striving to reduce its impact on the environment. It must guarantee the continuity and quality of the supply of electricity.
Managing electricity flows on the network
RTE is required to guarantee the security of supply and alert the public authorities if there is a risk of a loss of power.
The operational reliability of the power network lies at the heart of the responsibilities legally entrusted to RTE as operator of the French public transmission system. The law states: "The public transmission system operator shall ensure the balance of electricity flows on the network at all times, as well as the reliability, safety and efficiency of the network, taking into account the technical constraints to which it is subject. The operator shall also ensure compliance with the rules governing the interconnection of the different national electricity transmission systems" (Law of February 2000, Art. 15.).
Contributing to the smooth running of the electricity market
RTE guarantees that all users of the electricity transmission system are treated in a non-discriminatory manner, based on public access charges, irrespective of the distance between supplier and consumer.
RTE promotes fluid exchanges. Its flow management solutions protect the freedom of market players wherever possible and draw upon their initiatives. It works with other TSOs to develop interconnection capacities. An essential task, given the French network's geographical position at the heart of Europe.
Contributing to sustainable development
Through its demand forecasts, RTE provides useful information for stakeholders in the energy sector and for the general public, to encourage responsible use of electricity by all, including end consumers.
It also strives to ensure that electricity generated from renewable sources is integrated into the power system as efficiently as possible, and to limit the use of greenhouse gas-emitting facilities wherever possible.