From 2016 to 2020, the BDI’s involvement in the bi-regional (Brittany – Pays de la Loire) programme, SMILE, contributed to the deployment of collaborative projects linked to smart grids across the Brittany territories. With SMILE, Brittany saw a new dynamic at the crossroads between digital and energy, bringing together stakeholders from private and public industries. Beyond the work carried out on a regional level, the European SET-UP project brought a European dimension. In 2021, the SMILE association becomes a structure in itself, independent of the two founding regions. BDI will continue to support Breton smart energy projects, a mission which will continue within the framework of BreizhCop, and will participate more widely in the fight against global warming. Here is a recap of the past four years which have seen the emergence of a smart grids industry in Brittany.
Over 50 Breton projects approved, many companies created, an interactive showroom opened in Rennes… The SMILE dynamic has really established smart grids in Western France. Businesses, local authorities, citizens have all come to be involved. In Brittany, BDI has supported 50 projects, 27 of which are up and running in whole or in part.
“In 2013, when we began working on smart grid topics, Brittany was a digital region with energy challenges”, remembers Françoise Restif, Smart Energy manager for BDI. “Applying digital to energy seemed like the obvious answer to cater for the energy needs of the Breton peninsula.”
The Brittany and Pays de la Loire regions got together to set up a combined bid for the call for “Smart grid” projects launched in April 2015 as part of the “Sustainable town” solution for the government’s “New Industrial France” scheme. In 2016, the SMILE project (SMart Ideas to Link Energies) was selected by the French government.
The SMILE coordination team (BDI & Solutions and Co) put together a set of project specifications, to enable them to apply SMILE certification to collaborative projects with a certain level of maturity. The aim is to deploy them widely, and to establish an industrial showcase of French expertise in the field of smart energy systems and to replicate these projects nationally and internationally.
Businesses and local authorities were quick to get on board and the BDI began the important task of supporting and approving these projects, initially in the Morbihan and Ille-et-Vilaine departments, soon joined by Finistere and the Côtes d’Armor. Five main themes are covered:
- Smart grids and smart territories
- Self-consumption and smart building
- Smart islands
- Data and ethical consumers
- Sustainable mobility
Support and deployment
To support these projects, BDI coordinated and mobilised four panels of experts, in line with the needs of project sponsors. Several services are on offer such as financial planning, search for deployment sites or technical or legal recommendations.
27 of the 50 Breton projects have received coaching for their funding. The “Scientific and technical” experts panel has analysed and drawn up recommendations for all 50 projects. The “Territories, users and citizens” panel was mobilised for 8 projects and the Legal advisors have supported 3 projects.
For all of the approved projects, work has continued, to provide them with visibility through a marketing strategy and a communication plan designed by the BDI teams, working closely with their Pays de la Loire counterparts: website, showroom, shared stands in trade fairs, social networks…
Today, the BDI’s expertise in smart energies is characterised by an in-depth knowledge of stakeholders, skills and markets. This expertise is supported by the Craft tool, shared with Pays de la Loire (listing of members, projects, contacts, sites to visit, etc.).
Simultaneously to these actions in support of project sponsors, the BDI teams have also been kept busy with supervising and organising the Association’s administration.
On a company level, the markets for smart grids and energy management have evolved, and businesses have diversified. Other new businesses have developed their activities around issues such as storage, energy conversion or mobility (Quimper’s Entech SE, Kemiwatt or Drop Bird in Rennes).
On a project level, the focus is now on deployment. Certain projects are still on their first sites, but by capitalising on these first experiences, wider scale development becomes a possibility. Two examples are Atl-en-tic and Green Station.
A collaborative approach was the BDI’s trademark for their involvement in Smile. The two regions, the network operators, energy professionals, local authorities, support structures, businesses… all worked together.
Networking and lobbying enabled BDI to create links with Belgian and Dutch clusters looking closely into this same dynamic, as well as with other local authorities in France.
On a European scale
Beyond these efforts focusing on the territory, there is also the European dimension. BDI, together with the region of Brittany, was fully committed to the SET-UP project, which came to an end last year.
The aim of this project was to encourage exchanges to improve regional smart grid policies. Eleven best practices were identified by the 6 European partner regions (Brittany, Andalusia, Algarve, Hungary, Lithuania, Leicester).
Each of them brings concrete solutions in answer to the challenges of energy policies and the implementation of regional policies on smart grids. Find out more in video.
In the Spring of 2021, the SMILE structure is cutting loose and rising to new challenges, finding a public/private business model and deciding on its next actions. A director has been appointed to the association in the person of Emmanuel Jean.
“We’ve achieved our objectives with SMILE, its visibility, its inclusion in the national and European dynamic”, underlines Françoise Restif. “It’s time to hand over the reins to this new structure”
BDI will remain a key partner for SMILE and will continue to support any smart energy related Breton projects, whether they are members of the SMILE association or not. The dynamic continues with the wide scale deployment of projects in the viewfinder. “On these topics, Brittany businesses must be allowed to meet with large-scale markets, and to create activity and jobs”, wraps up Françoise Restif. A priority for BDI as an economic development agency.