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RTE’s fight against climate change

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Environment
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The energy and environmental transition marks a turning point where our common heritage, consisting of the earth, life, the air and the oceans, need to be regenerated. It is leading us towards a more sustainable world and brings with it new expectations. In response to the climate-change crisis, RTE is taking action through its significant contribution to the energy transition by mitigating the environmental effects of its activities and by adapting its business to the climate change.
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Fighting the climate change

RTE, an instrumental player in the energy transition

By modernising its grids to integrate renewable energy sources and accommodate new uses (e.g. charging of close to 4.8 million vehicles by  2028), RTE is supporting the objectives of France’s low-carbon strategy (SNBC), which seeks to achieve carbon neutrality in France by 2050. With grid modernisation plans focusing on sobriety and rationalised flow management, the company is aligned with this nation-wide effort. This is how RTE is helping to meet the objectives of the multi-annual energy plan (PPE), which – by 2035 – intends to halve the level of emissions caused by power generation.

RTE is decreasing its own greenhouse-gas emissions


Going beyond this effort, RTE is taking action to improve its own industrial footprint by tackling its main greenhouse-gas emitting substations. These measures helped to reduce its emissions by 20% over the period of 2014 to 2018.


SF6 action plan


RTE’s main direct emissions are due to SF6 gas leaks. With the highest global warming potential, this synthesis gas is used by the electrical industry as an insulator, particularly in compact substations and overhead circuit breakers. In order to ensure continuity of supply and protect the environment, RTE has been applying a leak-reduction policy since 2004, aimed at reducing these leaks which can be accidental or due to equipment ageing or maintenance work. Scaled up in 2018, this policy is based on exceptional remedial measures and on a plan to replace about 20 ageing substations containing SF6 at an estimated cost of 630 million Euros over a 15-year period. The company also aims to reduce the installed mass of SF6 by using compact SF6 substations as a last resort only. In order to do this, RTE uses overhead substations wherever possible and is trialling alternatives to SF6, which are currently being developed.


Electricity losses and energy efficiency


When electricity is being transmitted from generation facilities to its final destination, some of it is lost as a result of the Joule effect, which converts part of the electrical energy flowing through an overhead cable or underground connector into heat. Since 2007, the loss rate has fluctuated between 2.1% and 2,2% of the power being transmitted. One could therefore say that grid efficiency ranges from 97.8% to 97.9%. Even though RTE has very little control over these losses (which depend on consumption levels and locations, committed output levels, international flows, etc.), the company is constantly seeking to adjust its operating patterns. These actions help to reduce annual losses by approximately 1.5%. Since 2018, RTE has also been using internal carbon pricing to inform its grid-development decisions, thereby favouring engineering solutions that minimise electricity losses.

 

Rationalised worker mobility


As early back as in 2011, RTE started implementing a mobility plan designed to reduce and rationalise worker mobility for business trips and for home-to-work travel. RTE was one of the first French companies to introduce a bicycle mileage allowance in mid-2016. The proportional use of individual fossil-fuelled vehicles for home-to-work travel dropped from 51% to 44% over the period of 2015 to 2019.  Workers are using simpler means of transport, especially on RTE sites in large towns. In addition, thanks to the active encouragement of teleworking, nearly 20% of the company’s workforce is made up of teleworkers.


Rationalised grid development


RTE is developing an infrastructure management system that saves on resources by adopting a tailored approach and by implementing a monitoring programme that uses the most innovative sensor technology.


Rationalised energy use in buildings


When regenerating or vacating its sites, RTE tries hard to rationalise the amount of energy used by its buildings. Its new headquarters in Paris La Défense, occupied by its staff in late 2018, is a building that meets the highest current standards (HQE Excellent).

 

Becoming resilient to climate change

Hurricanes, winter storms and cold spells on the one end of the scale…. heatwaves, fires, floods and rising water levels on the other. Global warming will bring about increasingly severe weather conditions. These events will affect the balance between electricity supply and demand (consumption levels and locations, effects on generation facilities) as well as affecting grid infrastructure. 

The next projected supply estimate being drawn up in conjunction with stakeholders, and which determines potential supply-demand scenarios, will provide a forecast of scenarios up until 2050. It will include climate-change predictions based on scenarios developed with Météo France using the assumptions of the intergovernmental panel on climate change (GIEC) .

Furthermore, RTE is building structures that are designed to last for several decades (50 years on average). While it is thought that the grid has been able to withstand storms since making investments over a 15-year period to strengthen it mechanically, infrastructure vulnerabilities must be identified, particularly with regard to heat and water, so that the appropriate upgrades can be made. In 2019, RTE therefore decided to start work on its "resilience" project, also based on climate-change scenarios running up to 2050. RTE is currently working together with asset-management experts, data scientists and climate specialists to calculate the impact of extreme-weather events on its structures.