Energy Chief in France Says Grid at Risk of Overloading Due to Rising Electric Vehicle Ownership

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 16

Grid is at Risk in France, Says Energy Chief

Grid is at Risk in France, Says Energy Chief

The grid will fail.  It will be an epic failure.  The world will come to an end.   Can you say “scare tactic?”

Let's Blame the Stressed Grid on the Success of the Renault Twizy, Says Some Fools Out There

Let’s Blame the Stressed Grid on the Success of the Renault Twizy or Zoe, Says Some Fools Out There

Olivier Grabette, head of research and development at French electricity transmission operator RTE, warns that a future packed with plug-in vehicles could fracture the nation’s grid.

Insert background blurb here:

Réseau de Transport d’Électricité, usually known as RTE, is the electricity transmission system operator of France. It is responsible for the operation, maintenance and development of the French high-voltage transmission system, which at approximately 62,000 miles, is Europe’s largest.

Grabette claims that France’s under pressure power grid would likely fail if all future plug-in vehicle owners simultaneously plug in at dinner time, an event that to us seems unlikely to occur as “dinner time” varies widely for us all.

Stop Charging at Dinner Time.

Stop Charging at Dinner Time.

Anyways, as Grabette says, the long-awaited Renault Zoe is cheap enough that it could gain mass appeal and worries that if similar vehicles continue to flood the market, the grid won’t be able to cope.  Furthermore, France’s generous plug-in vehicle subsidies could spike demand for electric vehicles to levels that would take down the nation’s sensitive power supply.

Oddly, Grabette’s own statements contradict and make no sense:

“If it’s badly managed, it could prompt power surges, which would cost a lot in peak production, CO2 emissions and would also necessitate the construction of relatively costly infrastructure.”

“Under the ‘ambitious’ scenario of a fleet of two million electric vehicles by 2020, total French annual electricity consumption would rise by 1 to 3 percent.”

“It’s not huge in terms of energy.  But if all these vehicles charge at peak times, even with slow car chargers, it could add between 3 and 6 gigawatts of peak demand, which would be felt if it comes at the wrong moment.”

But France is Europe’s biggest electricity exporter and boast 19 nuclear power plants, which ensure a steady supply of electricity, but Grabette claims that the nation’s electrical infrastructure is not set up in a way to cope with spikes in demand.

Blame it on Zoe

Blame it on Zoe

Our info reveals otherwise.

According to several sources, France’s peak demand occurs during the winter and in 2007 was 88,960 MW.  The nation’s annual electrical capacity in 2007 was 108,319 MW, almost 60% of it nuclear.  So, there’s roughly 20,000 MW in excess capacity even during peak demand times.  This could be utilized or stored in such a way as to easily handle Grabette’s claimed bump of between “3 and 6 gigawatts of peak demand.” 

Or, if that’s not possible, France could stop selling energy to other countries and instead use it to charge electric vehicles, right?  We do wonder why Grabette is so concerned over the potential success of electric vehicles.  Is there a hidden agenda here?

Postscript: We feel a well managed grid can handle the upcoming EV revolution for decades.  If further interested, please check out an earlier article on “Understanding EVs and the-evolution of the smart grid”

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16 responses to "Energy Chief in France Says Grid at Risk of Overloading Due to Rising Electric Vehicle Ownership"

  1. Johan says:

    Eish “nonsense” these grid overload due to ev charging, my opinion.

    Got this perhaps relevant “nonsense” answer in SA today from Renault re my question about the Zoe:

    “I cannot comment on other brands as I know the government (SABS) will not be approving such as in S.A we only have on electricity company supplier in Eskom. Now they cannot even sustain the power throughout S.A and we have to load shed! Then how will they build the GAS/Elec stations to power up these vehicles?

    From Renault South Africa, we will not be bringing them in for the reasons above and the maintenance of such vehilces.”


    Ms. Sade Langa
    Case Manager – Renault South Africa
    12 Ernest Oppenheimer Drive, Bruma, 2026
    P.O Box 472, Isando, 1600
    Tel : +27 11 607 7508
    Web :
    P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail.

  2. Mark H says:

    I see that Woody is at work again. The thing about negative spin is people know when they use it that it is unlikely. Every EV is equipped with the ability to set charge times. Just because everybody in France MAY plug in at dinner time does NOT mean that they start charging then.
    Studies have shown that our own grid could support 160 million EVs with proper management. I am betting that the French grid can support 20 million or 10x their 2020 expectation through proper EV management. Every utility supplier will tell you that supply is uneven and they would love to sell power at night as well as during the day. The EV offers the perfect path.

  3. bloggin says:

    It sounds like Mr Grabette needs to be replaced. He is the French head of research and development of RTE, and is complaining about a power capacity issue that he should have been preparing for, instead offering his solution for the future.

    I am sure the French clearly see this as a big red flag, pointing to the obvious conclusion that Mr Grabette is no longer the right person for the job.

  4. ClarksonCote says:

    France’s sewage authority must also be real concerned about everyone flushing their toilets at the same time.

  5. Jay Cole says:

    Random thing/heads-up in relation to the article that used to be in front of this one (re: volt mpge).

    While we/I think that there is validity in the content, and ultimate conclusion of the article. There is a lot of complicated/fuzzy math that is involved in calculating the exact MPGe of Volt drivers. In the end, that was just going to confuse the heck out of a lot of readers, and probably annoy the heck out of others. So net negative result, short of GM publishing out exact numbers…which was not going to happen.

    For that reason, we/I (as editor) have decided to pull the piece in the interest of the ‘greater good’ and sanity of the readers/comment section.

    1. GeorgeS says:

      FWIW I agreed with Jay that the article is misleading and have said just that over at GM-Volt. They should have left off the e after MPG. Oh well luckily nobody knows what MPGe is anyway.

    2. ClarksonCote says:

      Thanks for the update Jay, I was wondering where it went. I agree there’s validity too, we just need to make sure not to confuse terms and what’s being measured (we being authors, commenters, and GM).

      I do appreciate you helping me to maintain my sanity though. 😉

  6. Rob says:

    The author confuses the capacity to produce energy with grid’s ability to handle it. One has nothing to do with the other. By analogy, if a country has capacity to produce 1 million cars, it does not necessitate that that it has enough roads for that number of cars. Grid is for moving energy not producing it!

  7. GeorgeS says:

    This article would have been better to point out that France is the perfect place for EVs. France has the lowest CO2 emissions per kwh of electric produced of any country in the world. about the only way to charge your EV with a cleaner source would be to do it with PV panels.

  8. finecadmin says:

    AeroVironment and PNNL have already built a solution, ready for field trials. A real-time load-shedding EVSE needs no user diligence for France’s overnight peaking. Wouldn’t be as useful for US daytime peaking, at least not without being visible to the user.

    Oh, and _my_ EV doesn’t have a timer. But then again, it charges at 1kW, then gets 6-12 miles/kWh. So I don’t even bother plugging in most nights.

  9. Ivo says:

    Although i would rather prefer to hear about solutions, I think there is some merit in the words of the french official.
    Because heating in the winter is based on electric heaters, the peak hour is during night time, and not during the daytime/evening, as is more common. If everybody is going to plug in during the night, then there would be an increase on peak demand and maybe the grid can’t cope with it.

  10. Suprise Cat says:

    The problem might be, that the french government want to close the Fessenheim NPP in the south-east, but new NPP are only build on the northern Atlantic coast (as well as off shore wind power). The grid will need some more transmission lines from north to south.

  11. kdawg says:

    Why is he complaining? Just fix it, that’s his job. Is this just a ploy to get more money?
    Sort of like the co-worker who starts coughing on a Thursday, because they’re planting the seed to call in sick on Friday.

    1. evnow says:

      Yes, this is a ploy to get more money than belittle EVs.

  12. Bill Howland says:

    Uh man, another article creating a problem from a 60 year old solution….

    Time of Day metering has been used for this long to smooth out demands. Just have the electric rates go down at 11pm to 7 am, and most people will charge at this time, putting to more effective use of any existing infrastructure in almost any country.

    Before someone says “How do we force people to charge at these times?”, the answer is you don’t have to. People swamp any gasoline station that charges 10% less than the competion leaving the higher priced places barren.

    Offer a 25% discount after midnight and 99% of the people will charge their cars at this time with absolutely no change in the cars or the infrastructure. For people who insist on charging at 4pm on the hottest day of the year, and pay 25% more, LET THEM.

    Anyone who says anything to the contrary is either half-brain dead, or trying to justify their jobs, of which I expect that applies to many bureaucrats.

  13. MrEnergyCzar says:

    Sounds like he’s worried his job will get more difficult….deal with it.