France at risk of facing energy shortages this winter, warn experts

The French grid is feeling the pressure as more than 13GW of nuclear capacity remains offline

Big Zero Report 2022

France could face a potential shortage of energy this winter, experts have warned.

Analysts say that the first cold winter days are testing the resilience of France’s power network.

Last week, the head of French energy regulator RTE confirmed that the country is in a situation that entails risks – this could even lead to power cuts in the coming months.

Jean-Paul Harreman, Director of EnAppSys BV, told ELN: “We have been analysing the tightness in markets quite closely over the past months. During the moderate weather, we have already highlighted the risk of a demand spike when temperatures would drop, especially in the period before Christmas, when nuclear capacity was still on its way back up.

“With recent revisions of capacity availability, we highlighted the potential of the market reaching the maximum import levels. Last year, we saw a highest import of 13GW into the French market, but this year there is more than 13GW of additional nuclear capacity offline compared to that period.

“At current demand levels, around 70GW, the available capacity, combined with interconnectors, will be sufficient to satisfy demand.

“If we get a very cold spell, however, demand could spike up to levels above 90GW. If that happens, there is a significant risk of the market not clearing due to a shortage of supply. If the interconnectors are maxed out, it doesn’t matter how much surplus capacity and how much gas in storage other countries have, it can’t reach the French market.”

Mr Harreman said a shortage of interconnector capacity had been highlighted in the past when France was a “structural net exporter of nuclear power.

He said: “The French have always held off building additional interconnector capacity, but they could face the consequences this winter if a ‘perfect storm’ were to occur.”

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