Top Job Logo

Technological Innovation on the European Energy Scenario: Interview with Hervé Laffaye, Deputy CEO of RTE and President of ENTSO-E

Technological Innovation on the European Energy Scenario: Interview with Hervé Laffaye, Deputy CEO of RTE and President of ENTSO-E
09 . Dec . 2021

Hervé Laffaye is currently Deputy CEO of RTE and is responsible for International Activities and European Affairs. He is also President of ENTSO-E. His career started in R&D on applied mathematics for electrical systems. He has also held various operational management positions in gas and electricity distribution, before acting as head of the National Control Center during RTE’s first seven critical years (2000-2007). Until 2016, he served as COO working on engineering, maintenance and operational activities at RTE.

Hello Mr. Lafaye, the organization of which you are President represents 43 transmission system operators from 36 countries across Europe. In an energy transition scenario, what is the role of a network operator and manager today and how has it changed in recent years?

Operators are responsible for a number of activities in the current energy scenario. First of all, they must guarantee the continuous, safe and competitive operation of the system. Then, they must provide stakeholders with the outlook for the coming months, years and decades, so that they may prepare for the coming challenges and make all the necessary decisions. Finally, they also have to help operators to improve their coordination and facilitate access to the grid for all involved actors. In fact, let’s not forget that the current energy transition is not the first. In the past, the oil crisis had important consequences on the electrical system. However, the current energy transition comes with new challenges that are not only geographic, as it mainly affects continental Europe, but also concern the generation mix. Indeed, there are growing uncertainties on solar and wind generation, on new locations for offshore farms and possible interactions between TSOs (Transmission System Operators) and DSOs (Distribution System Operators). This means that we need to immediately develop new infrastructure (not just in terms of lines and substations, but also of facts, storage, etc.) to address the current transition.

Sustainability and the impact of energy systems on the environment are core issues. And there also is another one: the resilience of energy infrastructure to climate change. In Europe, how are we doing in terms of policies, strategies and investments?

The issue of energy infrastructure resilience is mainly addressed at the national level by local authorities, so ENTSO-E is not directly involved in this issue. However, as a coordination platform, ENTSO-E promotes the sharing of good practices amongst TSOs.

You are an energy system expert. In your opinion, what is the outlook for smart grids and, more in general, on technological innovation? What trends will we see in European countries in the coming years?

Innovation – and particularly digital innovation – is key to finding smart answers to the challenges faced by TSOs to boost the performance of existing assets (Dynamic Line Rating, for instance), to promote the exchange of information amongst TSOs, and to give stakeholders the opportunity to develop new data-based services. Let me mention that ENTSO-E has also published a report reviewing 100 TSO projects on the so-called “cyber physical grid,” which clearly demonstrates the growing importance of digitalization. Moreover, the energy transition is powerfully driving the development of Direct Current (DC) Grids in Europe, including offshore grids, of course.

One of the main activities of ENTSO-E is to guarantee maximum reliability for the exchange of data amongst operators, including through collaboration platforms. How can data transparency and security be managed with respect to external attacks? How is integration with renewables proceeding?

ENTSO-E’s approach is to be as transparent as possible, while ensuring that cybersecurity issues are anticipated and managed correctly, also in relation to the guidelines and rules of our members’ national authorities, which requires us to keep a delicate balance, at times…

The geographical perimeter of ENTSO-E extends beyond the borders of the EU and reaches 35 countries. What is the importance of cooperation amongst different regions today? What is the relationship between North America and the Mediterranean countries like?

As Vice President of MedTSO, the Association of Mediterranean Electricity TSOs, I can assure you that the cooperation between the two associations (that have common members) is excellent, especially in terms of sharing data, methodologies, tools and partnerships. ENTSO-E and its members have developed fruitful contacts, sharing experience and knowledge with GO15, too, including two major US system operators. All in all, power networks stretch across borders and it is crucial that we work with countries like Switzerland or Norway in a very professional way to ensure that the lights are kept on for EU citizens, as well as in countries with which we are linked electrically.

ENTSO-E, the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity, represents 42 electricity transmission system operators (TSOs) from 35 countries across Europe. ENTSO-E was established and given legal mandates by the EU’s Third Legislative Package for the Internal Energy Market in 2009, which aims to further liberalize the EU Gas and Electricity Markets. The role of Transmission System Operators has considerably evolved with the Third Energy Package. Due to unbundling and the liberalization of the energy market, TSOs have become the “meeting place” where players interact on the market.

Related contents