France’s head of the electricity grid has warned his country about electricity shortages this winter due to problems at its nuclear power stations.
Xavier Piechaczyk (President of the Reseau Transport d’Electricite) stated that consumers will likely be asked to use less electricity in certain instances during a cold, or “normal” winter because electricity supplies are running low.
RTE is currently in a “state of special vigilance”, he said, warning that also raises concerns for Britain’s power supply this winter.
National Grid hopes to be able to import power from Europe at peak demand times if there is not enough domestic electricity.
Nearly half of France’s nuclear power plants are offline at the moment, as they are being maintained or due to corrosion issues.
Gas shortages cause widespread disruptions that add to the stress on the energy system.
France exports electricity to most countries, but it is less capable due to its nuclear problems. This means that Britain may not be able to purchase the electricity it needs during peak hours this winter. National Grid warned that there may be blackouts in Britain if it can’t import electricity as needed.
RTE publishes a forecast of electricity supplies for up to four days ahead, called Ecowatt. This is to help manage the system. It will issue a “red alert” to users if supplies look low.
Radio Classique’s Mr Piechaczyk said Monday that they remain in a state of special vigilance. Red Ecowatt won’t be heard if it’s very hot. If it is very cold, there will be many of them. However, if it is an average winter or median winter, only a few units of red Ecowatt will be heard.
On Monday morning, 32 out of 56 French nuclear power reactors owned by EDF were online. EDF plans to have 11 reactors up and running by December, and four more operational in January.
There is however some uncertainty due to the many complications of nuclear technology.
After EDF reduced its electricity output for the fourth consecutive year, power prices in France for January soared to above EUR1,000 per megawatt hour. Although prices have fallen since then, they remain much higher than those in neighbouring countries.
Bloomberg reported that Mr Piechaczyk was cautious about nuclear plant availability in RTE’s forecasts. This is because of the possibility of maintenance taking longer than expected.
Mild weather and higher prices are helping to reduce consumption. However, the “nuclear Fleet risks being even more available than we had anticipated, so we’ll need to evaluate if that event,” he said. France has several large industrial customers that have committed to reducing their consumption in the event there is a “red alert”.
France is one of many countries that trade electricity with Britain. This helps to balance both supply and demand. The National Grid of Britain published its October winter outlook and warned that it could have to impose power cuts if the fuel supply is not available to power stations. Imports from Europe will be insufficient to fill the gap.
National Grid believes that the lights will remain on as a base case.
There is hope that the differences in peak times between France & the UK will prevent blackouts from triggering by a supply crunch.
National Grid has a scheme where British households can be paid to reduce demand, if necessary. Last week, it confirmed that the scheme would be used to support exports to Africa in extreme circumstances.
Due to Russia’s cuts in gas supplies to Europe during its war against Ukraine, there are significant strains on gas supplies.
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