CE&E Case / France

NICE GRID, the French Demonstrator of GRID4EU

France: NICE GRID, the French Demonstrator of GRID4EU


Project Background

GRID4EU is one of the most significant large scale demonstration projects of advanced smart grids solutions with replication and scalability potential for Europe. It is funded by the European Commission under the FP7 program. Financed to the tune of €25 M by the European Commission, and costing €54 M overall, it is one of the biggest smart grid project to be funded by the European Union. The project is led by six European DSOs covering more than 50% of the electricity supply in Europe: CEZ Distribuce (Czech Republic), Enel Distribuzione (Italy), ERDF (France), Iberdrola Distribucion (Spain), RWE (Germany) and Vattenfall El distribution (Sweden). Altogether 27 partners from several countries (including manufacturers, system integrators, research centers and universities) are collaborating in the project. GRID4EU comprises 6 Demonstrators. The French one is NICE GRID which is a pilot project on photovoltaic-powered neighborhoods funded by the French government and the European Union. The project started in November 2011 and will last 4 years with an overall budget of 30 million Euro. ERDF is the coordinator and project leader of the Project GRID4EU and manages also the French demonstrator involved in the project NICE GRID.

The NICE GRID project consists of a smart electricity distribution grid that harmoniously integrates a high proportion of solar panels, energy storage (electrical and thermal), load management devices and smart meters installed in the homes of volunteer participants. Making use of a high proportion of local intermittent energy sources, the project seeks to demonstrate an optimal approach to electricity management, at the level of a district or town, involving the large-scale integration of dispersed photovoltaic (PV) power generation systems load-shedding capacities (target: 3.5MW), and energy storage systems (lithium-ion batteries with 1.5MW total capacity), at different points in the overall system: the distribution grid, electricity producers and consumers. Some 2,500 potential residential and business customers will be involved with this project. Several of these customers will be equipped with PV roof top panels and connected to the same low voltage grid.

The project is designed to address potential network constraints that could be caused by a massive integration of photovoltaic (PV) generation into a low voltage network, with the help of flexibilities connected to the grid. In the case of NICE GRID, these flexibilities fall into two categories: load-shedding or load-shifting, depending on the context. Batteries located on the grid or at customers’ premises are used, but the key factors are the involvement of customers and their ability to respond to signals from a grid energy manager through aggregators. For example, a signal could encourage private individual customers to use storage devices (thermal: hot water tank or electric: battery) or shift their consumption during photovoltaic high-production periods. Another example: in the winter, customers, who may be private individuals or businesses, are encouraged to delay or suspend their power consumption when the local demand is too high.

Thus, with the help of customers, four main use cases are tested:

  • Reduction of power demand.
  • Management of maximized PV production on an LV network with respect to constraints and flexibility programs.
  • Encouraging consumers to adopt smarter habits in accordance with the network state.
  • Islanding.

ERDF, the French electricity distributor is the coordinator and project leader. The other partners of the consortium are: EDF (electricity supplier and aggregator)), Alstom Grid (develops the network energy manager), Saft (provides the batteries), Armines (develops a PV generation forecast tool), Socomec (provides inverters), RTE (supports load-shedding), Daikin (provides smart heating pumps), Netseenergy and Watteco (support the aggregators with telecommunication infrastructure).


Case Description


The objectives of the project are to:

  • Optimize the operation of a medium voltage / low voltage distribution grid with massive integration of Distributed Energy Resources (DER), mainly rooftop solar (PV) and storage.
  • Island a portion of low voltage grid equipped with PV panels and electricity storage capability for a period of several hours.
  • Turn consumers into proactive players with regard to their consumption/generation of electricity.
  • Test new business models of various players providing new services.

The project, which makes use of a high proportion of local intermittent energy sources, seeks to demonstrate an optimal approach to electricity management, at the level of a district or town, involving the large-scale integration of dispersed photovoltaic power generation systems load-shedding capacities (target: 3,5 MW), and energy storage systems (lithium-ion batteries with 1.5 MW total capacity), at different points in the overall system: distribution grid, electricity producers and consumers.

NICE GRID will monitor different data in order to calculate the KPIs listed in the below table.

 KPI Family  KPI Description
 Load managing  Fraction of load effectively shed out of the total reduction capacity
 Environmental  Increased hosting capacity of RES integration in the local LV grid
 Forecasting  Error calculations related to forecasts of solar power generation
Error calculations related to forecasts of consumption levels
 Reliability  Voltage deviation at the LV grid level
Total Harmonic Distortion Factor
 Efficiency  Energy losses and ICT energy consumption of flexibilities
 Societal  Fraction of consumers opting out during load shifting
 Islanding  Voltage deviation during islanding

Table 1: KPIs used in NICE GRID



To support these objectives, NICE GRID has developed an energy management system that optimizes the balance between power consumption and generation of electricity at the district level. This system communicates with three aggregators (one for private individuals, one for businesses and one for batteries on the grid) and technologies.

The following outcomes are expected:

  • Study the technical and economic efficiency of storage (thermal: hot water tanks and electric: batteries) combined with load-shedding in the residential sector in order to assess the most effective solutions.
  • Assess the efficiency of “packaged solutions” combining technical solutions with financial incentives, adapted to local PV generation, storage charge/discharge capacity and/or load- shedding potential in the residential and business/industrial sector.
  • Test the behavioral response of consumers with a strong outreach approach to local stakeholders and customers; giving customers the possibility of adapting their production and/or consumption, while minimizing the impact on their comfort.

Some 2,500 potential residential and business customers will be involved with this project. Several of these customers will be equipped with PV roof top panels and connected to the same low voltage grid.

Figure. NICE GRID Demo Project


The architecture relies on AMI infrastructure and utilization of smart meters, which enable more accurate consumption forecasts and allow participating customers or aggregators to control and monitor devices such as hot water tanks and heating systems without additional internet boxes or parallel communication infrastructure. In particular, consumers will play an active role within the energy system by providing data on power use and consumption, storing energy in hot water tanks and/or batteries using controllable smart devices, generating electricity from PV panels and adapting their behaviours towards a better integration of PV generation. The metrics evaluated include load managing, environmental, forecasting, reliability, efficiency and societal KPIs.


Project Outcomes

In this section, we will deal in particular with the involvement of customers (consumers and producers) in the NICE GRID project. In NICE GRID, three main groups are identified: the two broad categories of participants, companies and individuals, and the local community. The entire consumer cycle is presented from the awareness and education stage to the sustainability strategy.

Awareness and Education
All awareness and education activities are based on the analysis of sociological studies realized during former similar projects in southern France and ad hoc interviews conducted prior to experiments. Awareness and education actions differ for the three categories identified. For individuals, from May 2012 to October 2012, community gatherings were held to provide information on the deployment of smart meters. At these events, a comic-strip presenting issues relating to an Advanced Metering Infrastructure for the general public was handed out and a presentation of the functionalities of the website was held.
From September to October 2012, communication in local publications about the deployment of smart meters was also organized to reach most Carros residents. In May-June 2013, the first enrollment campaign of the project took place. A teaser campaign was first implemented through posters in the designated solar precincts. Initially, communications did not focus on specific rational aspects of the project, but rather conveyed the overall benefits of the project: innovation, sustainability and territorial anchoring (cf. Figures 17, 18 and 19).


Figure: Example of an advertising board located in a crossroad 

Figure: Poster used for the teasing campaign


The advertising boards displayed a countdown with the teasing messages :

Figure: Advertising boards used for the teasing campaign


Then, to inform inhabitants of the identified solar areas about the launch of the load- shifting experiment in summer 2013, brochures were distributed, doors open days organized and promotional posters put up). To educate consumers about the project, a booklet (cf. Figure 20) comprising a description of the offers (cf. Figure 21) and a “prosumer guide” was handed out to participants of open door days. In September-October 2013, the second enrollment campaign of the project started the load- shedding experiment lasting from December 2013 to March 2014. This campaign targeted all inhabitants of the city equipped with a smart meter.

Figure: Scan of the booklet


Figure: Description of the load shifting offers


To address the specific needs of business/industrial participants, the recruitment process is engaged through a visit by an EDF representative and a technical expert to present the experiment, both of whom stay in touch as key contacts to support the participating companies. These participant awareness-raising processes are supported by a broad awareness and education commitment to the local community and local, national and international press coverage.

This commitment to the community is one of the specificities of the project. Among other initiatives, this has taken the form of:

  • a meeting with residential opponents of the deployment of smart meters in August 2013 to take stock of their concerns, understand their fears and engage in discussions to make them aware of the benefits;
  • regular meetings with the local Chamber of Commerce;
  • a step by step video aiming at explaining the smart grids and the NICE GRID project objectives and features (cf. Figure 22)• the opening of the Showroom in August 2013 (cf. Figure 23). The Showroom serves as a showcase of the project to recruit participants, as an educational tool to inform the local population about the project and about smart grids in general and as a help desk for participants who have already signed up. For instance, presentations to schoolchildren from Carros are held during school visits to the Showroom;
  • a mobile version was designed as an e-book to bring the showroom closest to the largest audience (cf. Figure 24 )
  • an agreement with the local charity organization “La Passerelle” to contribute to the project by painting local LV/MV substations so that they are better integrated into the urban landscape while at the same time enhancing local young people’s awareness about smart grids.

Figure: Nice Grid video

Figure: Four pictures of the showroom

Figure: Four pictures of the showroom

The contractual engagement lays the foundation for the relationships between the various stakeholders. At the highest level, a legally binding agreement has been signed by all members of the NICE GRID Consortium to clarify the role of each party and build a strong and effective partnership.

The quality commitment is also reinforced by exceptional safety measures taken with respect to service providers:

  • PV roof panel installers are certified and supported by an independent body, the French national organization providing training and certification services in the construction industry
  • the safety of residential battery installation is checked and approved by an independent body, recognized as acting in the public interest by the French state.

With regard to consumer participation in the project, the same principle has been applied and a contract has been signed between the participants and the energy provider (EDF), thus ensuring that both parties’ engagement in the project is secured. Participants can opt-out throughout the duration of the project without incurring any extra cost. Recruitment is also possible up to the beginning of the last experiment. As a result, the recruitment measures mentioned in the Awareness and Education stage are effective up to the last experiment.

So far, 100% of the B2B (business/industrial participants) prospects targeted have signed up for the project (i.e. 7 companies with a load-shedding potential of 2.1 MW). Concerning the B2C (individual) participants, 50% of the target has been already reached and contributed to the first load management experiment. Targets were defined to ensure a sufficient, representative sample of Carros customers with regard to the potential identified base located in the city. Beyond the direct benefits linked to load-shifting and load-shedding, the engagement of individual participants is incentivized through:

  •  a sign-up gift,
  • a financial contribution to the PV rooftop panel installation,
  • the free use of a web portal to monitor power consumption.
  • a gift linked with behavioral change

The desire to participate in a cleaner and more sustainable world and become an eco-citizen turns out to be a key factor to stay involved in the project. This mindset was particularly prevalent at the public hearing with the citizens of Carros while the project team presented the project.

Participants were empowered to manage their load (shifting or shedding), generate PV power, or/and store energy in the batteries or in the hot water tank (thermal storage) (cf. Figure 25).

Figure: Poster explaining the offers


Participants are inspired to own the project through a communication system enabling them to report NICE GRID results. Two types of communications are performed:

  • Individual communication through SMS, e-mails and a web portal called “Visibilité Conso”, available since summer 2013. SMS and e-mails provide information before the load-shedding or load-shifting takes place and give the opportunity to override the request (i.e. not to participate). These communication channels are also used to thank the individuals for their participation/involvement. The web portal is a consumption monitoring display that presents consumption for overall use, in euros and kWh, hour by hour, day by day and month by month. This portal enables participants to perform a day-to-day, month-to-month or even year-to-year comparison.
  • Community feedback through “Carros Info”, the quarterly newsletter and the website are planned at the end of the first experiments (mid-year 2014). A meeting in the showroom is also planned at this time to reinforce the commitment of participating consumers and enroll new ones. These communications aim to add meaning to the project through community results.

Regarding the participants that would like to opt-out, a dedicated action framework has been realized to understand their concerns and to address them:

  • dedicated public presentations of the project open to all citizens, and in particular opponents of the project, have been organized
  • invitation in the showroom for groups of residential opponents to have the opportunity to discover, touch and play with the actual components of the project (meters, relays, batteries,…). This way of handling opposition has enabled:
    o opponents to change their minds about the project, even to become supporters,
    o a dynamic to be created in the city of Carros, thereby facilitating customer recruitment and project implementation.

For B2B participants, a business club of participating companies was created to foster synergies and discussions and share best practices. B2B participants asked for a specific tagline to highlight their participation in the project. In response to this demand, Nice Grid created a dedicated logo “engaged in Nice Grid” (“engagé dans Nice Grid”). Participants can use it to communicate on their engagement. They have the permission to use this logo in all of their communications (annual reports, presentations, signature of letters, email, etc.). (cf. Figure 26)

Figure: Logo « engaged in Nice Grid »


In order to sustain the momentum, the project undertakes two sorts of initiatives. First, at the end of each experiment, it emphasizes the results reached by all the participants in internal and external media (showroom, newsletter, local publications, etc.). Second, it highlights individual efforts realized by some participants through media interviews. For example, one participant has enthusiastically accepted to be interviewed by the Franco-German TV channel Arte to present his engagement in the project and his commitment for the future of the planet.

This approach is already effective. Participants of Nice Grid are already advocating the project. For instance, participating companies promote the project to their employees. They have also contributed to set up a club of business participants in the Nice Grid project to share best practices and create a virtuous circle of communication. They have even used this opportunity to share experiences beyond the project by organizing mutual visits of their industrial installations.

After experiencing the first experiments, participants are very enthusiastic about the project. As experiments are effective only in winter and summer, the level of excitement will likely to decrease. To avoid losing momentum, actions are planned to manage the time-lag between the experiments by maintaining the communication with participants:

  • Meetings
  • Quarterly newsletter
  • Free interactive e-book for tablets and smart phones (cf. picture 10 of the Annex)
  • Ongoing visits to the showroom for participants and also for the community (students, citizens, local authorities, etc.).

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