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France faces winter supply "disaster" amid nuclear slump


07 Apr 2022 12:33

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07 Apr 2022 12:33

(Montel) France faces a power supply “disaster” next winter with EDF vastly overestimating its likely nuclear output, analysts said this week.

The country may have to resort to supply cuts early in the season unless it can significantly reduce power demand, they added. 

“January and February will be the tightest months, but two weeks of cold weather between November and December would be a disaster,” said Nicolas Goldberg of Columbus Consulting.

“If the start of winter is very cold, in October or November, with a demand of about 80 GW, it will be very tense,” said EnAppSys analyst Jean-Paul Harreman.


EDF’s forecast nuclear output for next winter – which sees atomic generation jumping by over 20 GW by December –  was “unrealistic”, the analysts said.

“We find the estimates very hard to believe because the problem [of corrosion] would seem to be fairly widespread," said one of them.

EDF has found cracks on the safety circuits of seven reactors as it checks its 56 reactors for corrosion.  The problems are keeping units offline for longer than planned. 

The firm sees its nuclear power capacity rising to 53 GW in December, from 47 GW in November and 44 GW in October, according to its Remit data.

Capacity would then rise to close to 60 GW in January before falling to 52.5 GW in February, according to the data.

France’s nuclear generating capacity – which stood at 31 GW on Thursday – would only rise to 44.3 GW by December and to 49.6 GW by January,  according to Energy Quantified (EQ), a Montel company.

“We expect more reactor outages than EDF is currently reporting and this reduction [from EDF's forecast] is necessary to meet the annual [nuclear] target of 295-315 TWh,” said EQ Eylert Ellefsen.

Nuclear production next winter will fall 4-7 GW below EDF’s estimates, said another analyst.

In addition, "the risk of an intense and prolonged cold snap is statistically higher next winter (...) because we haven't had one since 2018," said Compass Lexicon analyst Yves Le Thieis. Cold winters return on average every three to four years, he said.

Low French nuclear output means France faces a supply crunch right across winter, even if Russian gas continues to flow to Europe, Goldberg said. 

Europe fears that Russia will stop gas supplies in retaliation for the EU-27 sanctions against Moscow for its war on Ukraine.

Adding to the tightness, France is exiting coal-fired power use, although the government plans to keep about 1.8 GW in reserve over winter. 

Acting on demand

France must move to cut power demand next winter to avoid power cuts and supply interruptions, the analysts said.

“If the power system tightens up, there is nothing to stop it except to reduce demand from businesses and households,” said Paolo Coghe, founder of analyst firm Acousmatics.

French TSO RTE is looking for additional ways to encourage companies and communities to cut consumption, a spokeswoman told Montel. 

Earlier this week, TSO supply alerts led to an 800 MW reduction in consumption helping France meet a surge in demand amid a cold snap.   


Close to half of EDF’s entire reactor fleet was out of service on Thursday with 27 reactors stopped. 

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