What measures has the French TSO taken to manage to COVID-19 crisis?
« The company’s activities had already been identified so that RTE could continue to perform its vital mission. »
François-Xavier Detraz, Head of Studies and Projets for RTE’s European Affairs
The AFD invited RTE to present the measures that the company has taken to manage the COVID-19 epidemic. On this occasion, François-Xavier Detraz presented the French expertise in this area during discussions organised by the Agence Française de Développement (French Development Agency) for African and Asian utilities. He is in contact with his European counterparts in ENTSOE working groups and was able to discuss these issues with many other Transmission Network Operators in Europe and around the world.
What measures has the French TSO put in place to respond to the health crisis?
François-Xavier Detraz : In order to respond to the COVID-19 health crisis, RTE reacted quickly by setting up a crisis unit dedicated to the health crisis. Also, under the Business Continuity Plan, the company’s activities had already been identified so that RTE could continue to perform its vital mission for the nation. RTE’s major concerns are to ensure that their public service mission continues to be carried out and to protect the health of their employees.
« The critical activities are those that ensure that the grid operates smoothly, and that electricity continues to be supplied. »
|The critical activities are those that ensure that the grid operates smoothly, and that electricity continues to be supplied. We must guarantee that these activities are continuously maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and that they are located on RTE sites or as close as possible to RTE facilities, such as power lines or substations, throughout the country. These activities mainly concern real-time operation, with all control activities carried out within the dispatching centres in order to ensure that power flows are properly distributed throughout France and to our European neighbours, and to ensure that the balance between supply and demand is maintained, as well as other activities concerning short-term network planning.|
There is also the maintenance carried out by all workers who can operate on substations, transformers or equipment used to transport energy.
These critical activities also cover IT and telecom support needing to supervise the electricity network, and also enabling the various stakeholders of the network (distributors, electricity generators or our European counterparts) to ensure that communications and data exchanges between them are maintained.
The work of all other employees is, of course, necessary and each position must be organised individually. As all French employees, they are obliged to work from home and most of their activities can be carried out at home.
« When the lockdown measures are lifted, RTE is ready to support the recovery of the economy. »
|In my work, I am in contact with my European counterparts to discuss subjects ranging from the security of network operation to energy exchanges between countries. These subjects are as relevant as ever during this health crisis where European coordination and solidarity regarding the electricity network are important and contribute to RTE being able to carry out our vital mission.|
The crisis unit has put other measures in place since the end of February and regularly updates the information to ensure that the health of employees is maintained, in particular by providing masks and reinforcing hygiene measures (hand washing, hand sanitiser). Employees who are still on site obviously follow strict protective measures, with restrictions on travel and gatherings, social distancing between employees, the use of personal protective equipment and rotating shifts. For example, in our national dispatching centre, our electricity control tower, where we manage access to electricity in real time, is restricted to 6 employees per 12-hour shift. These employees must wear masks, be more than one metre apart and alternate to eat. These are difficult working conditions, but they are necessary for the French population to have electricity. The commitment of all of these employees is unfailing and the company’s management is grateful to them.
When the lockdown measures are lifted, RTE is ready to support the recovery of the economy and will be immediately available to potential clients who may need special attention when these measures are lifted. The Chairman of RTE’s Executive Board expressed his views on the matter in an op-ed in French newspaper, L’Opinion , as well as in a joint statement with some of his European counterparts .