Intelligent energy networks, or smart grids, are a powerful component of the energy strategy of SNCF, which consumes more electricity than any other company in France. They afford more agility in managing flows and lower the electric bill.
SNCF has made energy a priority of its innovation strategy. It has two aims: to reach zero CO2emissions by 2050 and to reduce its energy bill, a large portion of which is electricity. SNCF is indeed the largest consumer of electricity in France, spending €600 million annually for 7 terawatt-hours.
In the TECH4RAIL programme of Innovation & Research, TECH SNCF is testing new technologies to increase energy efficiency such as battery storage systems, new power converters, and decentralised energy production.
Integrating these new technologies involves interactions not only with the railway’s electrical network, but also with the electrical power grid.
The development and implementation of a “smart” grid to manage electrical power is thus an obvious necessity.
The smart grid is also useful for load curtailment, an energy management technique with which the electric utility pays SNCF not to consume energy during a given period (for example, when temperatures are very low and French households’ energy consumption increases sharply). This avoids starting up auxiliary power plants, many of which emit greenhouse gases. This project is thus perfectly in line with the company’s desire to reduce its carbon footprint.
Since a smart grid reduces energy consumption, SNCF is offered a new business opportunity, with energy being not only an expense or a chance for savings, but also a source of income.