we explain how “Ecowatt” works, the tool on which RTE is relying to avoid power cuts this winter

It’s the “Smart bison of the electrical system“, in the words of the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher. During a press conference on Wednesday September 14, Xavier Piechaczyk, chairman of the management board of the electricity transmission system operator (RTE), presented Ecowatt in detail. The device, which will give the “weather forecast” of energy, should also encourage consumers to reduce their energy consumption, in times of restricted electricity supply and low nuclear production. Franceinfo returns in five questions on the operation of this tool intended to inform and alert the French.

1What information does this energy “weather” provide?

Thanks to this system, users registered on the platform monecowatt.fr can see the level of electricity available in the country in real time, thanks to a three-colour “weather” system: green (“normal consumption”), orange (“strained electrical system”) and red (“very strained electrical system”). Ecowatt presents consumption forecasts for the next three days, as well as details, hour by hour, of periods of voltage.

In the case of consumption that turns red, “cuts are inevitable if we do not reduce our consumption”, warns RTE. The goal is to avoid these famous power cuts. Several scenarios are being studied to anticipate the next few months, but in the event of a very cold winter and supply degraded”, red Ecowatt alerts could be activated around thirty times, specifies RTE. However, the manager of the electricity transmission network wants to be reassuring: “Under no circumstances does France run a risk of a ‘blackout’.”

2How will the French be informed of the need to reduce their consumption?

Like a weather alert, a red alert will be broadcast via the Ecowatt application, or by SMS and email, provided to be registered with the“cut alert alert”.

If consumption forecasts predict a period of tension, an initial alert will be sent to warn users and allow them to adapt their usage accordingly. Ecowatt subscribers will then receive a second alert, if the forecasts are confirmed. This time, with the precise hours when they will be asked to save energy, precise France Inter.

A to date, only 100,000 people are registered on the platform. These alerts could then be more widely disseminated by the media and energy suppliers, for local authorities, businesses and households.

3What will be the suggested eco-gestures?

In times of network tension, registered French people will be encouraged, on a voluntary basis, to adopt small daily gestures to reduce their power consumption. These recommendations are particularly valid for peak consumption: in the morning between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and in the evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. On its site, Ecowatt suggests, for example, turn down the heating when you leave your home, close your flaps to nightfall or in case of absence in winter, to cover pots while cooking, to avoid charging your mobile phone at certain times, to limit the number of lights on in a room or to turn off your internet box in case of absence.

“If all French households turned off a light bulb, it would save up to 600 MW nationwide, the power of a coal-fired power plant; or the equivalent of the consumption of 600,000 inhabitants”assure RTE.

4Are companies concerned by Ecowatt?

At its national launch in 2020, Ecowatt was only intended for individuals. The device is however expanded to businesses this winter. “Our switchboard is saturated with calls from companies wanting to sign Ecowatt agreements”said Xavier Piechaczyk, Chairman of the Board of RTE, on Wednesday.

Several dozen companies such as Carrefour, La Poste and Schneider have already signed the partnership with Ecowatt. Energy suppliers EDF, TotalEnergies and Engie have also undertaken to warn their customers of any tensions on the network.

5Has the device been used before?

The system has been tested for several years in Brittany and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region. The system became national in 2020. A The orange alert signal has already been triggered on April 4, during a very cold day, which saved around 800 MW, according to RTE data. “One degree below normal for the season is a consumption that increases by 2,400 MW, or the equivalent of three nuclear reactors with a power of 900 MW”underlines RTE.

An identical system to communicate on the situation of the gas market, designed by GRTgaz, should also quickly see the light of day. It will be launched “in October”a announced Wednesday the managing director of the gas transmission network operator, Thierry Found.