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France starts the year as an electricity exporter again

France starts the year as an electricity exporter again

France starts the year as an electricity exporter again

For the first time in months, France is again a net exporter of electricity at the turn of 2023 thanks to a mild winter, good wind production and EDF’s efforts to reconnect nuclear reactors. “Since January 1, the net balance of electricity exports has been 1.4 terawatt-hours (TWh),” high and extra-high voltage grid operator RTE confirmed on Tuesday. This balance is equivalent to the power consumed in one year by 450,000 households.

A “recovery” of nuclear power generation, a mild winter that avoids forcing heating, and favorable winds for wind power mean that France is starting to export more electricity to its European neighbors than it imports, if only for a shorter period. “We have the impression that we have changed the world,” summed up Nicholas Goldberg, an energy expert at Colombus Consulting, in an interview with AFP.

“Extremely low consumption, wind turbines that are generating at full capacity, and nuclear power that is generating within the average RTE forecast, all this means that we are a net exporter of electricity and that no one is talking about power outages,” — he explains. .

At a time when parliamentarians are considering a bill to accelerate the development of renewable energy and catching up with a weeping lag compared to European neighbors, “wind power also shows that it is of little service in winter,” notes Nicholas Goldberg.

Reactors shut down to save fuel

As a sign of easing up on the electricity supply, EDF even shut down up to ten reactors “just before Christmas” to save fuel and optimize its production. “Mild above-season temperatures and lower consumption during this period means the grid does not need all available reactors,” the group said on Thursday.

In particular, France has returned, according to RTE, with net exports since the first week of the Christmas holidays, which is the exact opposite of the trend seen in 2022. With historically low levels of nuclear power production, estimated in the range of 275-285 TWh in 2022. France was a net importer of electricity for almost the entire year (except February, May and since the end of December), which was not the case for 42 years.

Historically Europe’s leading electricity exporter, France has been forced to import electricity from Spain, Germany or the UK to make up for the lack of production and avoid cutbacks.

Annoying corrosion problems

Last year, France faced an unprecedented shortage of nuclear fleet due to scheduled but lengthy maintenance of reactors and the discovery in late 2021 of corrosion problems in sections of pipelines critical to the safety of power plants requiring lengthy repairs. France could hardly count on its drought-damaged hydraulic reserves (dams), even if they have since been partially replenished this autumn.

Under pressure from the government, EDF has been working diligently to bring the 14 reactors back into operation as of November 1st. “Engineers, workers and employees of EDF have just restored today (on the grid) 45 gigawatts that they promised for mid-January” (out of a total installed capacity of 61.4 GW), Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire greeted the deputies on Tuesday.

Six reactors to be shut down in 2023

With 44 reactors out of 56 reconnected, the nuclear fleet showed a readiness of 73.7% on Monday, the highest level since February 11, 2022 (74.8%), according to EDF data analyzed by AFP. However, the availability of the nuclear fleet should “decrease again from February” 2023, RTE noted in its latest analysis in late December, while six reactors are due to be shut down in 2023 due to corrosion pockets. “You can be enthusiastic, but you have to be careful,” emphasizes Nicola Goldberg. Because winter is always under increased vigilance.

“All of this could turn around fairly quickly if there is a light wind and a cold snap in February,” the analyst warns. In this hypothesis, France will be forced to use its gas reserves for electricity generation and will approach the winter of 2023-2024 with less stock, with no or almost no Russian gas transported through gas pipelines.

Source: Le Parisien

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