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Covid-19 and the balance of the French electrical grid

RTE business continuity plan


In the energy sector, the French national transmission system operator (TSO), a company named “RTE”, must organise its activity in such a way as to ensure the continuity of its public service mission. With the Covid-19 epidemic, a certain number of measures have been put in place.

Indeed, RTE:

RTE also invited market participants to adopt their own BCPs.

RTE thus ensures that the main systems for maintaining balance between supply and demand on electricity markets continue to operate, allowing all electricity providers to supply all of the continental metropolitan territory, in compliance with the competition rules drawn up over the last twenty years. RTE recalls in particular the various processes available in D-1 and the relevant provisions of its  technical documentation ( “documentation technique de reference” or “DTR”): programming mechanism, balancing mechanism, tenders for rapid reserves / supplementary reserves, system services and tenders for peak management.

In essence, RTE is making it a priority to allow the electricity network balancing processes to operate in D-1 (programming the day before for day D). In particular, if RTE lacked available staff, the intra-day processes would be reduced to ensure continuity of the D-1 processes: this would thus be a transition to a degraded mode; the market participants would be informed by email, with the detail of the restrictions applicable to the next 24 hours.

In this summary, RTE gives an example of restriction involving in particular the closure of intra-day "windows" from 11 am, while the prior windows and processes performed in D-1 remain active and valid.

Nonetheless, in relation to peak consumption management (i.e. operations of demand response, which are alternatives to an increase of  the production in order to balance the system), it is appropriate to recall that the French regulator (the “CRE”) indicated on 19 March 2020 that demand response solution is not useful in the current period of permanent reduction in electricity consumption: during the first week of lockdown, France consumed 15 to 20% less than in the previous week (see below).

Consumption curves – Source: RTE

The CRE then asked RTE not to "pull" any "red" day from the Tempo tariff until 31 March, the red days determined by the selection algorithm being therefore turned into “white” days. Over the same period, the CRE also asked EDF not to pull any peak mobile day for the “EJP tariff”. These mechanisms are options under the regulated tariffs for supply of electricity.

Finally, RTE makes clear in its summary how contracts can be coupled with the results of D-1 auctions within the central-west European zone ("CWE"), which continues to apply normally, including substitution procedures if the transport network manager fails. The exchanges and more generally the intra-European solidarity mechanisms continue to operate.

The management of energy markets falls under the responsibility of the exchanges, which have not yet applied any restrictions and therefore can continue to ensure continuity of their services: see the EEX statement on this subject, now updated on 24th March.

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Christophe Barthelemy
Christophe Barthélemy
Marc Devedeix