The risk of French power shortages this winter has largely evaporated as nuclear output rebounded and homes and factories slashed demand, the country’s grid operator said.
(Bloomberg) — The risk of French power shortages this winter has largely evaporated as nuclear output rebounded and homes and factories slashed demand, the country’s grid operator said.
Many reactors that were shut for maintenance have returned. Plus, electricity usage fell in recent months compared with pre-pandemic levels as manufacturers cut back due to high prices and households heeded government calls to save energy, operator RTE said.
That helped France’s power system get through a severe cold snap in mid-December without incident. Still, atomic output remains below seasonal norms, and RTE said there’s a moderate risk that France will need to issue a red alert urging people to cut energy consumption to avoid blackouts. In the autumn, it repeatedly said there was a risk of such measures for part of the winter.
“Most of the risk is behind us,” said Thomas Veyrenc, executive director in charge of strategy at RTE. “We must remain vigilant and we’re calling for a continuation of efforts on energy savings,” he said, adding that weather conditions could still lead to a red alert.
Electricite de France SA’s nuclear fleet suffered prolonged shutdowns last year, making Europe even more reliant on gas at a time of record prices. France — traditionally a major exporter to neighboring countries — needed to import power for large periods of 2022.
EDF returned many halted reactors to service in November and December. At the same time, mild winter weather has helped maintain reserves for hydro and gas-fired power generation.
Nuclear output, which held at 43.5 gigawatts on Wednesday morning, should climb “slightly” above 45 gigawatts by the end of the month as more reactors are due to come back, Veyrenc said. Production should total 40 to 45 gigawatts at the end of February as some units are halted for maintenance, he said.
While EDF has reactor repairs planned for this year, supply risks for next winter seem less significant than for the current one, especially if energy-saving efforts are maintained, Veyrenc said.
The impact of planned strikes against state pension reforms may lead to reduced electricity output in the coming weeks, said Jean-Paul Roubin, in charge of the RTE’s operations. Regulations allow the grid operator to force striking workers to boost output in case of a shortfall risk, he said.
(Updates with RTE comments)
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