IFSTTAR’contribution to the energy transition debate

Science topics November 2013 EnergyMaterials and structures

The government launched a national debate on the energy transition in January 2013 which should give rise to a bill in 2014.

Hélène Le Du, , policy officer with responsibility for forecasting at IFSTTAR’s Scientific Directorate, explains why the energy transition is a cross-cutting theme all aspects of which are attracting the Institute’s attention − technological, environmental and socio-economic.

 

What is the framework for the national debate?

Hélène Le Du: This open and civic debate is concerned with four major issues: energy efficiency and conservation; energy scenarios for 2025, 2030 and 2050; renewables, new energy technologies and the development strategies that stem from them; and last, the costs, benefits and financing of the energy transition.

 

What are the reasons for IFSTTAR’s involvement?

H. L. D.: The issue of energy is central to our missions, which focus on spatial planning and the mobility of the future, and consequently our scientific strategy. This crucial issue is complex and relates to strong societal needs which constantly interact and at times conflict with each other. We will tackle it by applying a multidisciplinary systems approach that considers the technological, economic, environmental and social dimensions at the same time. Our aim is to work towards the energy transition by foreseeing the future and making proposals for both the national and regional levels.

 

Can you give some examples of technological solutions?

H. L. D.: I will mention two. The first is for cities, which are where 90% of France’s population will be living by 2020: we are taking part in the Sense-City project, which is a 400 m² mini city that has been built inside a climatic enclosure that simulates the seasons. The aim is to validate future generations of low-cost sensor that will be distributed more or less throughout the city. These will be able to measure energy consumption, air and water quality, the durability of infrastructure etc. and control them in real time. The second example involves electric vehicles, which are frequently mentioned in this debate: IFSTTAR is working on the performance of batteries, the different types of recharging system and their infrastructure, etc., with the hope that it will be possible to integrate these technological building blocks within a much larger project of the Institute: the 5th generation road. We are paying particular attention to inductive charging (for cars and buses), meeting the energy needs of roads (for signing, signalling and de-icing) and the services they provide (recharging…) by harnessing renewable energy (wind turbines, solar road panels, on cycle ways for example ...).

 

Could you describe some contributions from the social sciences?

H. L. D.: There are a great many. They allow us to observe and analyse ongoing changes, evaluate the acceptability of a technology or a measure, foresee new needs, etc. To return to electric vehicles, our research examines a variety of issues: surveys and studies enable us to evaluate the sensitivity of households to cost or the envisaged aids, how interested society is in this innovation, the practices and services associated with the vehicle, changes in behaviours, the impacts on multimodality and urban planning. The aim of this work is to inform public decision-making, to help firms implement organisational changes and make optimal choic