Paving the way for the future, our R&D roadmap

Embody smart electricity: our R&D roadmap


An R&D roadmap: what for?

A key player in French and European energy policy, RTE stands at the intersection of three major challenges: fight against climate change; competitiveness of the French and European economy; security of electricity supply.

The transmission system operator must play its role in facing these challenges head on, at a time when significant changes are being made to the European electricity system. The energy and environmental transition, digitisation of the economy, accelerated growth of renewables, energy efficiency, the development of demand reductions, European coordination and pooling of resources, societal expectations regarding the environment and energy, questions about the benefits of large infrastructures, the growing importance of a safe and cost-effective electricity system, the company's economic performance… All of these challenges are major upheavals for RTE, which has reached a crossroads in industrial development.

At the same time, technological progress has opened up new perspectives: innovations in materials engineering, applied mathematics, high-tech information technology, telecommunications and power electronics.

Against this backdrop, RTE must adapt, grow and innovate. By establishing an R&D roadmap, RTE is proactively preparing for changes in the electricity system in an effort to reshape the company of the future.

R&D roadmap 2017-2020: continuity and expansion

While establishing its R&D programme for the period spanning 2013 to 2016, RTE identified a certain number of changes. These have been confirmed and have even picked up considerable speed in recent years: massive changes in power generation with a move towards renewables and decentralised energy resources, the digital transformation affecting the whole of the energy value chain and more specifically, transmission system operators with the emergence of smart grids and new opportunities offered by big data, as well as the progression towards European integration.

In addition to these developments, new changes are appearing or starting to emerge:

  • The growing influence of the regions
  • Closer interaction between the different grids and the need to develop multiple-energy logic models
  • Technical maturity of distributed storage solutions
  • Significant uncertainties as to the viability and sustainability of the energy sector's current economic model, with several stakeholders throughout Europe struggling to cope.

The electricity system's technical, economic and societal foundations are thus being challenged by the effects of the energy transition as well as the use of new power electronic devices and digital technologies.

Faced with these challenges, RTE must therefore continue to focus on R&D activities aimed at improving performance and confirming the adequacy of its technical options (increased cable transmission capacity, qualification of new technologies in order to understand their impacts before rolling them out industrially, development of advanced simulation and optimisation tools to expand and manage the grid by bringing it up to the highest safety standards, etc.). At the same time RTE's R&D teams need to boost their early-detection capabilities by extending the scope of their research beyond the boundaries of the grid (new devices connected to the grid and connection of different energy networks).

Six R&D programmes

In its roadmap for the period of 2017-2020, RTE will continue to focus on the projects it started at the time of the first roadmap, whilst at the same time launching new ones. RTE's R&D activities are divided up into 6 programmes.


A more in-depth view

Learn about these programmes and their challenges:

With its "asset management programme", RTE is seeking to generate and identify scientific and technical advances that it can proactively use in order to prepare for the large number of equipment replacement projects expected by 2030 by devising alternative solutions to cope with the resulting capital expenditure whilst at the same time improving performance and working conditions for RTE asset management personnel.

With its "grid infrastructure upgrade programme", RTE is seeking to upgrade high-voltage and ultra-high-voltage (HV and UHV) grid infrastructure technologies and components whilst at the same time bringing these technologies to maturity through the use of simulation, mock-ups, European projects, systems installed in simulated or actual environments for projects being led by RTE or in conjunction with other companies. The aim is to incorporate all or part of this work into technical specifications for future roll-out by RTE.

With its "environment and society" programme, RTE is seeking to edify its technological options and work practices to ensure their economic and environmental sustainability in the broader sense and for the foreseeable future.

With its "electrical systems operating programme", RTE is seeking to consolidate an overall system management structure including technical dimensions, to explore ways of adapting the system by maximising the benefits of new technological opportunities, and to optimise system operation as cost-effectively as possible for the community, while at the same time maintaining the highest operational safety standards.

With its "optimal energy transition grid & development programme", RTE is seeking to challenge the bedrock of technical and economic fundamentals as well as the risk policy which informs its investment decisions, through stronger coordination and synchronisation of operation and maintenance timeframes.

With its "future outlook, economy and smart grids programme", RTE will be exploring the different trajectories along which the electricity system could develop in response to the arrival of decentralised generation facilities, new technological players (storage, customer-generators, electrical vehicles, active distribution networks) or institutional players (metropolises, regions), as well as ways to develop a multiple-energy approach (interactions between electricity grids, gas networks and heating networks).

6 programmes underpinning our R&D business:

  1. 1

    Asset management

  2. 2

    Grid infrastructure upgrade programme

  3. 3

    Environment and society

  4. 4

    Electrical systems operating programme

  5. 5

    Optimal energy transition & grid development programme

  6. 6

    Future outlook, economy and smart grids programme

  1. 35 million euros

    From 2017 to 2020, RTE will be spending 35 million Euros a year on R&D.

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