By Claude Nahon
We see it happening every day: the world is moving towards lower carbon energy, more decentralized production, and increased technology. This transition to the low-carbon economy also means that individuals may need to become more actively involved in understanding and choosing the source of their daily energy needs. We may even need to learn how to consume electricity differently. Recently, thanks to our electric cars, we are learning to manage and optimize energy use. The next step is to learn how to produce electricity individually.
Decentralized electricity production is growing and Électricité de France (EDF) is keen to assist this movement. The development of renewable energy and decentralized energy production is part of EDF’s mission and its future, despite their currently centralized hydro and nuclear-based grid. In fact, nuclear energy in this respect is the best companion to help mitigate the variability of the renewable energy available. France’s nuclear production is very flexible – with the added advantage of practically zero CO2 emissions.
So what is the key to this transition to renewables? I recently decided that I wanted to produce part of the electricity I need locally and to find the optimal balance with the current centralized system. So I tried “Mon soleil et moi” (My Sun and Me), the new offer from EDF Energies Nouvelles Renouvelables (ENR) Solaire.
I needed to first understand the reality of solar “self-consumption.” This term refers to consuming the energy your own solar panels produce, while it is being produced, and is generally regarded as the most efficient scenario possible. After an analysis of my electricity needs and consumption with a business manager, I opted to install 2 kilowatt components to maximize my self-consumption. I also opted for storage using hot water tank because I have personal concerns about the presence of chemical batteries in the home.
And the result? I felt incredible satisfaction in seeing the success of my first solar kilowatt hour. I have also noticed a behavior change as now I have a tendency to watch what I am consuming and producing, which means that I am managing my electricity use better. I have also gained a far clearer understanding of the intermittent nature of solar power and of how our fleet of flexible nuclear and hydro power plants complement the solar power produced on my roof.
The graph below shows my power need and my production: the times when I used what I produced and when I produced a surplus that fed into the grid. It also shows those times when, fortunately, centralized production met my needs. You can also see that even by optimizing use and storage, we can’t do without a network and flexible production system.
This experienced confirmed for me that electricity will be more decentralized and more interactive in the future. And that this system will be made possible with the support of a reliable centralized and flexible system, which in France relies on a fleet of nuclear and hydropower plants.
What could a decentralized energy solution look like for you?