ValaDoE, the French research consortium dedicated to the future of energy data and energy networks

Local authorities, industries and engineering schools are working together within the ValaDoE Chaire (French research consortium) on energy networks. The aim is to propose innovative solutions to make these networks more efficient.

How to make energy networks more efficient?

This is a very important issue in the context of climate challenge and energy transition. This is precisely what the ValaDoE Chaire (French research consortium), led by IMT Atlantique, is working on, with an initial budget of more than €800,000.

Launched in 2019, ValaDoE (for "VALeur Ajoutée DOnnées et Energie" / "added value on data and energy") mobilises players from various backgrounds: local authorities (Pays de la Loire Regional Council, Nantes Métropole), industries (Enedis, Akajoule), academic institutions (Fondation Mines-Télécom, IMT Atlantique, Ecole des Mines de Saint-Etienne, Télécom ParisTech).

"Our ambition is to make the most of this diversity of approaches to enable the emergence, at a local level, of innovative solutions in the field of energy planning, in particular via energy networks," explains Bruno Lacarrière, researcher in the Energy Systems and Environment Department (DSEE) and Head of the Chaire.

In particular, ValaDoE intends to provide decision-making tools and methods to manage the various connected sources and to make investment choices. This will make a major contribution to the development of tomorrow's multi-energy, intelligent and flexible networks.
The Chaire is also approved by Smile, an association that supports French know-how in the field of intelligent energy networks. With some 240 members, Smile supports technological demonstration projects in order to increase their visibility, including internationally.

Given its composition, ValaDoE mobilises a wide range of skills:

  • energy engineering and market mechanisms,
  • digital development,
  • big data,
  • AI,
  • Internet of Things,
  • modelling,
  • optimization,
  • decision support,
  • applied maths....

The Chaire's work is thus based on a highly multidisciplinary approach.

Chaire Valadoë avec Bruno Lacarrière

Data sharing is a key issue

For the partners, whose interests are sometimes divergent, one of the key challenges is to work together on the data in order to extract useful information that can increase the efficiency of networks in terms of energy production, distribution and storage. "This data may contain strategic or confidential information, which explains some of the difficulties in sharing it," explains Bruno Lacarrière. "But the academic framework of the Chaire guarantees a neutrality that reassures the players". The technical methods for sharing data, its use, the analysis of its quality and informativeness, as well as its robustness, are some of the subjects on which the Chaire is working.

Initially, seven themes were identified. These include the optimum operation of multi-energy networks in a decentralised context, integrating local production (renewable or not); the potential benefits of local coupling of networks of different energy carriers; and the market mechanisms for energy exchanges. These are all avenues of work that will make it possible to outline the evolution of the energy networks of the future - from the point of view of their design, their deployment and their operation. The key to this is the prospect of significant efficiency gains - but of course these are impossible to quantify precisely, especially as there are many parameters involved.
Initially, ValaDoE favoured work in the form of theses. One of them, written by Diego Kiedanski, deals with the new mechanisms of local energy markets, making it possible to design shared investments (1). In another, Sara Fakih examines the contribution of renewable energies and storage on a network in the face of uncertain demand variability - work that can be directly used by local authorities or network managers (2). A third, due to be presented in September, is looking at how to obtain reliable, low-cost information from massively deployed sensor networks (3).
Some of this work has been funded via the CIFRE (Convention industrielle de formation par la recherche) contract, which allows a young researcher to prepare his or her doctorate in a company, in conjunction with a public laboratory. On the other hand, the Region completes this mechanism by also co-funding scientific resourcing theses, up to 50%, via a "tandem" scheme. Thanks to hese co-financing solutions, four new theses have been initiated on subjects such as "multi-energy" systems or the contribution of AI to energy modelling.

An original knowledge production network

"All these subjects were defined and thought out together within the framework of the Chaire, emphasises Bruno Lacarrière. Today, the players are beginning to take ownership of the results. They will be able to implement them and evaluate their effectiveness."
This is where another major benefit of the Chaire comes in. In addition to its scientific production, the Chaire offers an original method of collaboration between its stakeholders. "Little by little, ValaDoE has invented a way of working together. It has become a network for building knowledge on energy issues," says Bruno Lacarrière. The energy transition is a subject that requires time for reflection. However, it is all too often a short-term approach that prevails, with structural choices made in haste. With the Chaire, the partners give themselves time."
This approach is accompanied by a continuous enrichment of the value chain, as in the case of Akajoule, a consulting and engineering company in energy efficiency, which joined the Chaire along the way. A sign that the Chaire's partners appreciate this set-up is that, after a first four-year phase ending in November 2022, they are working together to renew the partnership for a new cycle. One of the objectives is to broaden the range of actors. There is no shortage of topics and ValaDoE plans to look at multi-energy devices and local energy models, again through the prism of data. The Chaire should also make use of new ways of funding theses, and develop other forms of research, such as post-doctorates, in order to accelerate the transfer of knowledge to the operational world.

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Published on 01.03.2023

by Pierre-Hervé VAILLANT

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