You have all these stability issues because of the intermittent nature of renewable energy and the only way around that is to interconnect so France has to double its interconnections with neighboring countries in the next five years. That’s a big part of its plan.”

He continued. “We’re an American business masquerading as a French company,” the Harvard MBA grad said. “All our software development is actually in Redmond, [Washington State] where a team of roughly 400-450 employees work. It’s all our development for network management, energy management, the distribution management, demand response now.” Alstom Philadelphia is home to the company’s US grid headquarters and its Power Electronics Center of Expertise for Static Var Compensator (SVC). The Power Electronics Philadelphia unit provides support and enhancements to Flexible AC Transmission Systems (FACTS) projects in the Americas. Alstom Grid has three other locations in the US and Canada for a total of 35 manufacturing plants globally, 30 grid projects are under development worldwide and is a global leader in missioncritical software solutions with a market share of 13.7%.

Grégoire Poux-Guillaume
Alstom Grid Sector

This interview was conducted on February 12th
 in the sun-kissed French Riviera city of Nice,
 on the rocky coast of the Mediterranean.

Patrick Plas,
Senior Vice President
Grid Power Electronics and Automation

Alstom Grid

Patrick Plas said in his opening remarks that “Alstom envisions that the smart grid market has the potential to grow to €51 billion by 2020, up from the present €29 billion creating 100,000 new highly skilled engineering jobs and another 300,000 indirect jobs.” He defined the smart grid as an intelligent electrical network with two-way flow of energy and realtime information between power generation, grid operators and consumers. Its three-level architecture includes traditional grid equipment (substations, lines, etc.) to transmit electricity at low, medium and high voltage; automated systems that interconnect renewable energy sources, storage solutions and consumers to manage the flow of electricity across the grid and control centers using software solutions to manage transactions, balance supply and demand and interconnect all networks.

In the next ten years, energy demand is expected to grow by 22 percent in the US and Europe, 78 percent in Latin America and by triple digits in the rest of the world. Plas, using the smart grid model, sees a twenty percent savings achievable by demand side management in the investment needed for generation and infrastructure; by load shedding, the smart grid manages peak demands and blackout risks; smart-grid solutions can balance supply in real time transparency balancing electricity from renewables and the smart grid will make consumers into prosumers to control costs and volatility on real time information and incentive offers.

Laurent Schmitt followed Plas in the opening press briefing saying: “Data is becoming the fuel of future economic development. Exchanging data is at the core of the smart grid development, and is one of the new concepts of smart grids. This is about being able to benchmark each other in our energy usage, not only as a consumer but also knowing how much we’re doing in the neighborhood.” He was referring to the lessons learned from the US-based project which is nearing completion. The Smart Grid Pacific Northwest demonstration project tested the software solution across five states from 60,000 metered customers. The goal was to establish pricing in real time and plan new methods of demand side management using cost based incentives toward peer-to-peer exchanges.

Laurent Schmitt
Vice President, 

Alstom Smart Grid Solutions

“Peer to peer exchange does not mean that the utility will not exist. The utility will exist and grid operation will be a fundamental element of the smart grid, but in a slightly different model,” Schmitt underscored. The first two years have been spent in design of the project and now we are recruiting customers,” he said in conclusion. The sun-kissed French Riviera attracts large summer populations straining the supply of electricity. Alstom, its partners, and the Nice Town Council responded by building a micro grid, optimizing energy production from solar panels. The town of Carros, a 20 minute bus ride from Nice, was chosen as the test site because its location on the periphery of France’s transmission grid increases the risk of outages, along with its seasonal sunshine and diverse commercial and residential population. The NICE GRID draws on three key factors to balance supply and demand: next day forecasts for solar energy production compared with demand; battery storage to maintain voltage and frequency across the grid offsetting any intermittency in solar energy and consumption peaks and incentivizing residential and industrial customers to manage their consumption. Christophe Arnoult, Project Director of Smart Grids at Electricite Reseau Distribution France told World-Gen that, “Linky is the name of the smart meter program ERDF launched. Linky will be installed in Carros by the end of 2014. These customers are the basis for the recruitment of participants in the pilot as they will represent 95% of the customers whose home electric installation is suitable for the NICE GRID pilot. Out of these 2600, the project will seek to recruit several hundred participants for the load management program. The linky meter is used both ways: from the customer’s premises up to the NICE GRID central computer to transmit the load curves and from the NICE GRID computer down to the customer premises (always through an aggregator) for the control of the flexibilities (manageable load) that are activated by the system.”


Once data has been collected, it must be immediately processed into actionable information (data mining) for the grid operator to balance the complex system. Control room IT systems are configured to cover the full range of mission-critical power grid issues, such as congestion analysis, dynamic stability, anticipation of contingencies, snapshots of estimated output from renewable sources, forecasts and outage management. Operators have the intelligence for electricity flow (quality, measurements, oscillations, metering, etc.) across the lines, substations and equipment.


Marc Delprat is in charge of Alstom’s small pilot programs within the network management solutions. “Network management solutions (NEM) are like the brains behind the grid,” he said during his presentation in the NICE GRID Showroom in Carros. In the NICE GRID, NEM handles load reduction from demand response and storage. It collects solar production and load forecasts and imports regional load reduction requests, calculates local grid constraints and identifies risks of overvoltage. It then sends power adjustment needs to the suppliers, computes an optimal schedule of flexible solutions and activates flexible solutions to counter local and regional grid constraints on a rotating basis. Finally, it balances the grid in islanding and manages over voltage situations due to massive solar generation.


Alstom supplied its new MaxSine™ eStorage conversion solution connecting batteries to the high/medium voltage network, Alstom’s Davy Theophile told the journalists. MaxSine™ eStorage is installed with a power converter and software which controls storage facilities. The NICE GRID solar district is the only solution able to handle megawatt-scale storage providing a connection of up to 12 MW’s.


The NICE GRID project enables testing of multiple functionality associated with electricity storage using the LI-ion batteries integrated at three grid levels: at the originating substation, at several distribution substations and finally at the residential level. These batteries will have different functions at every level, and can be also synchronized to constitute a 1,5 MW load management capacity. MaxSine™ eStorage is a modular solution comprised of a two-way power converter that connects the direct current battery to alternating current grid, converting electricity to be stored in the battery or dispatched to the grid and provides real-time battery control to balance the frequency and flow of electricity while optimizing the efficiency and service life of the system. Pike Research projects 70% of the energy storage market will be driven by integrating renewables, reaching 10 GW’s of installed capacity by 2020 with 20% going to North America, 30% in Europe and 50% in Asia.


The worldwide population is projected to reach 6.5 billion with 70 percent living in cities by 2050. Cities cause eighty percent of CO2 emissions. Alstom and CEA-INES, the French state owned research agency have joined teams to investigate the use of direct current applications in smart city projects. Smart grids offer a solution to the challenges of smart cities. Alstom defines a smart city as a municipality or district using networked energy, transportation, communication infrastructures to improve economic and political efficiency enables social, cultural and urban development. A smart grid is by definition an open communications network, giving rise to the question of hardware and software compatibility and data standardization. Efforts are underway in Europe and the United States to ensure interoperability. Alstom is working to develop IEC 61850 standards on electrical substations and CIM standards on control rooms.