EconomyVIDEO. France reopens coal-fired power plant to avoid...

VIDEO. France reopens coal-fired power plant to avoid blackouts

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Thick smoke again bursts out of a tall chimney, and an endless ballet of trucks unloads a dark cargo: with the onset of cold weather, the Saint-Avold (Moselle) coal-fired power plant, one of the last in France, went out of order. reopened on 28 November. This plant, a major source of CO2 emissions, was due to close permanently at the end of March. But this summer the government decided otherwise to secure the country’s electricity supply, given the conflict in Ukraine and the setbacks the EDF’s nuclear fleet has experienced.

From 9 am on Monday, the Emil-Husche power plant sends electricity back to its grid. The power plant is expected to burn 500,000 to 600,000 tons of coal this winter at a rate of 5,000 to 6,000 tons per day. The plant has the right to operate 2,500 hours until March 2023 to “protect the electrical system this winter,” said Camille Jafrelo, a spokesman for GazelEnergie, the company that owns the plant. When operating at full capacity, the Emile-Huchet can produce up to 600 megawatt-hours and can power a third of the homes in the Grand Est region.

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The total cost of the operation for GazelEnergie: 500 million euros, including 400 million for coal and its logistics. Before the restart, the company also had to overhaul the installations and especially recall former site employees, more than half of whom were due to retire. Recall of young retirees was the “duty” of the company, which needed their skills. “Coal is a heavy industry, you don’t learn at the click of a finger,” emphasizes Sylvain Krebs, manager of the coal park. A total of 70 of them responded, thanks in part to a generous bonus of €5,800 gross per month offered to employees.

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The Saint-Avold power plant is to continue producing electricity until March 2023. And then? On a possible restoration for the winter of 2023-2024. Gazelle Energia is still waiting for the government’s response. And as soon as possible. “It is out of the question to send our employees home without visibility in April,” insists Camilla Giafrelo. “It’s humanly impossible, you can’t play yo-yo with 150 people.”

In France, of the last four existing coal-fired power plants, two have been permanently closed (Gardanne at Bouches-du-Rhone and Le Havre). Operation Cordemais (Pays de la Loire) will cease operations between 2024 and 2026.

In France, only one coal-fired power plant is still in operation – in Cordem, in the Loire-Atlantique. In France, more than 67% of the electricity produced is of nuclear origin, the share of fossil fuels in 2020 is 7.5%, including 6.9% of gas and only 0.3% of coal.

As for a possible recovery for the winter of 2023-2024, GazelleEnergy urges the government to make a decision as soon as possible.

“It is out of the question to send our employees home without visibility in April,” Ms Giafrelo insists. “It’s not humanly possible, we can’t play yo-yo with 150 people,” she adds, asking the government to make a decision “before April so that this plant can operate,” perhaps next year.

After the final closure, the Emil Huche power plant will be dismantled to make way for new projects, notably a biomass boiler that will supply heat to industrialists at the nearby Carling chemical platform, which GazelEnergie hopes to put into operation in late 2024.

Source: Le Parisien

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