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Inria international chair


An international chair to optimise smart grids

© Miguel Anjos

Since September, Professor Miguel Anjos has been sharing his time between Polytechnique Montreal and the Inria Lille - Nord Europe research centre. He is currently the holder of an Inria international chair which allows him to collaborate with the Inocs research team for a period of five years. His mission: to study the optimisation of smart electrical distribution systems, more commonly known as “smart grids”.

Miguel Anjos is a professor in the Mathematics and Industrial Engineering Department at Polytechnique Montreal, where he designs optimisation algorithms for smart grids This research topic is very similar to the work carried out by the Inocs team at the Inria Lille - Nord Europe research centre. “We have been working on similar topics for several years ,” explains Luce Brotcorne, head of the Inocs research team. “We know each other well because I did two years of post-doc work in Montreal, where Miguel works. That led to the idea of offering him this international chair. ” The Inria International Chair allows foreign research workers to spend 12 months with an Inria team over a period of five years. It’s a real opportunity for the Canadian researcher. “Inria is one of the few institutes in the world offering this type of solution. Other programmes for foreign scientists last one year at the most, which is very little time for carrying out a project.

“The energy field has seen a lot of change in recent years”

Researchers specialised in mathematical optimisation problems will study the famous smart grids. This is a field that Luce Brotcorne’s team knows well. Its speciality: the study of optimisation problems with complex structures, in other words those comprising different types of decision variables. The Inocs team focuses in particular on issues relating to energy prices. Electricity distribution has undergone significant changes in recent years, particularly with the advent of smart meters. “We were used to having a single supplier and enough energy for consumers ,” explains Luce Brotcorne. “The only concern was correctly calculating generating costs. Nowadays, we have to consider consumption peaks, renewable energy - which is developing but remains intermittent - and market deregulation. New stakeholders are involved, including producers, suppliers, customers, who now adopt strategic behaviour patterns, and smart grid aggregators with smart meters, etc. And they all interact. ” It is these interactions that the Inocs research team models. It defines the associated decision variables, tariffs for example, which must incite customers to change their consumption habits.

With Miguel Anjos, the team will be able to explore this topic in greater depth and focus on two major problems. The first will be to fix an energy price that takes into account the supplier’s desire to optimise its income and, at the same time, reduce consumption peaks. The second will be to organise demand from customers which, with smart grids, is becoming increasingly complex.

A means for seeking out new opportunities

Smart grids involve a very large number of different components and stakeholders ,” explains Miguel Anjos. It is therefore a highly complex problem which calls for a networked point of view. And that’s what the Inocs team provides. ” Miguel Anjos brings his complementary expertise. “He combines the mathematical and technical engineering aspects. These skills have been somewhat lacking in the team ,” Luce Brotcorne points out. “Together, we have a better grasp of the problems and can obtain better results .”

With this international chair, the researchers can now program their activities over the long term and plan to welcome post-doctoral students. It is also planned for a Canadian student to join the Lille team this year. “This international chair also provides the means to explore further and seek out new opportunities ,” says Miguel Anjos . Lastly, the researchers hope to prolong this collaboration beyond the planned five years. “I would personally like our two teams to go on working together ,” the Canadian researcher says. “I would like to create a core team of four or five researchers. This field of research is evolving rapidly and there is so much to study. It is essential to keep up this collaboration. "

Keywords: Inocs research team Smart grids Optimization