DSOs as key actors in e-mobility


Smart Energy International spoke to Dominique Lagarde, Director of the Enedis Electric Mobility Programme, about the role that DSOs can and should be playing in the global move to electrify transport.

“E-mobility is not just important in a smart city. Mobility refers to the daily movement of people and is therefore applicable within any smart territory development – be it rural or urban,” is the first comment Lagarde makes.

This article was originally published in Smart Energy International 2-2019.  Read all articles via our digital magazine today.

The team at Enedis believe that e-mobility is key to any development in which technology and data, with other utilities, combine in order to make the environment more liveable, greener, smarter and more inclusive. They believe DSOs are at the core of e-mobility development, as they connect the charging points to the grid – basic, yet important actions. The level of insight DSOs have into grid operations allows them to anticipate the need for grid development, to include the addition of electric vehicles and add charging points and they define many of the specifications for smart operations which directly impact the grid.

The potential of EVs to influence the flexibility of the grid, especially when it comes to vehicle-to-grid operations, needs to be locally optimised by the DSO.

“Yet, e-mobility needs more than just one stakeholder driving the initiative,” insists Lagarde. “This is a process that will need multiple stakeholders working in tandem – utilities, automotive manufacturers, service providers and government, both local and national, to create the conditions for e-mobility to thrive.” In order to support the transition to e-mobility, there are some support mechanisms which need to be put in place or enhanced. Particularly as it relates to the price of the electric vehicles – prices will need to decrease as EVs are still perceived as too expensive and affordable only to a small minority of drivers. While there are many countries where adoption of electric vehicles is increasing – China, the US and parts of Europe – the pricing issue is going to be the biggest hurdle to wholesale adoption.

Meanwhile, it is important that each region has the technological independence and autonomy to arrange their own offerings as this will likely drive rapid progress. The development of charging points, for instance, needs to be undertaken and adapted to the needs of drivers – where do they need charging points, when do they need these and how are these needs evolving?

It is always a challenge to work collectively on such a large and complex undertaking – industrial development is most often undertaken by a single stakeholder, but for the electrification of transport to work effectively, it needs to be undertaken as a collective. In this case, stakeholders need to work together to integrate both the technical (interoperability, monetisation and management) and the social aspects of e-mobility. Social aspects include the acceptability of the technology, drivers’ habits and technical impacts and investments on the grid.

This involves acceptable and secure data management and a seamless process for drivers.

One driving goal for Enedis is to ensure the seamless nature of the experience for consumers. The company is partnering with as many of these stakeholders as possible in order to create the right environment for the large-scale development of e-mobility.

This includes partnerships with cities, housing associations, car manufacturers and private charging companies. By partnering, “we can understand each other’s perspective and work toward common solutions,” explains Lagarde.

He continues: “We have recently completed a pilot in which we utilised the public lighting grid as charging points and found the right solution to make this work from both a technical and contractual perspective in order to effectively deliver charging infrastructure without having to develop new grids specifically for charging. We are now wanting to roll this out to a larger area.

“We also looked at collective housing parking and charging and again, are looking to roll this out with partners. We are wanting to test new devices which will increase flexibility, vehicle-to-grid opportunities, interoperability and the link between distributed energy resources and the charging points. We need to test these solutions in the real world.

Enedis has a fleet of 1,700 electric vehicles which are being used as part of the ongoing research into adoption and charging infrastructure. Staff who use the vehicles are providing feedback and Enedis is utilising both the positive and negative perspectives in order to understand the experience and how electric vehicles are perceived.

Immediate plans for the French DSO include reaching out to their partners to reach the national goal of one million electric vehicles in France by 2022. For Enedis specifically, a priority is to increase electric charging facilities across all rural and urban areas, and to consider how to match charging points with users.

This includes services by which a new EV owner can inform the utility they have purchased an electric vehicle and request the installation of a charging point near their home. This is particularly beneficial for those who only have access to on-street parking.

“We are also working with the bus companies who are considering moving from petrol buses to electric buses. We need to ensure there are charging points and power at the right places across France. We are also working with some cab companies or commercial fleets in order to make it as simple as possible for them to shift to electric vehicles.”

“The DSO is an important actor in the development of e-mobility. Our intention is to make it seamless for drivers and companies who need to connect to the grid. This is really important for us.

“The DSOs will use e-mobility to make the grid smarter and able to utilise all the flexibility and storage options across the distribution network. We need to provide these types of services to our clients.

“As a result, focussing purely on meeting the needs of a specific number of electric vehicles means, as DSOs, they will miss out on key differentiators within areas. It is only by a deep analysis of usage patterns, the locations of home and business for EV drivers and fleet usage that the company will be able to provide the seamless service it is determined to provide.” SEI

Enedis is the French DSO which manages the electricity distribution network and develops, operates and modernises the electrical network, and manages the associated data. Enedis is also responsible for supporting private individuals, condominium managers, lessors, electricians and mobility operators upstream to connect to charging stations, while continuing to ensure proper balancing and demand management downstream.