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French Grid Operator Warns Of Power Cuts This Winter

France could face the risk of power cuts this winter when electricity supply may not be enough to meet demand, Xavier Piechaczyk, the head of grid operator RTE, said on Thursday, citing the price to pay for slow renewables and a nuclear energy infrastructure working at half capacity.

There is a risk of red-alert days this winter, but it would mostly depend on the weather, Piechaczyk told Franceinfo radio today, noting that power cuts are not necessarily “inevitable”. 

 Due to lower nuclear generation availability, France will import electricity this winter from most of its neighbors, including Benelux, the manager added. 

“We are in this tense situation because the French nuclear fleet is not at full capacity”, Piechaczyk said, adding that France is also paying the price of slow deployment of renewable energy. 

“We pay for a kind of slowness in renewable energy in France”, he said.  

Last month, RTE said that the French electricity grid is at higher risk of strained power supplies in January 2023 than previously estimated due to lower nuclear power generation. 

Delays in routine maintenance work at France’s nuclear power stations will lead to a slightly lower nuclear availability this winter than expected back in September, the grid operator said. This raises the risk of a power supply crunch in January, RTE said in November in its latest winter preparedness analysis.

Nuclear power generation in France has suffered setbacks this year, and currently, just over 50% of the French nuclear power fleet is available. France, traditionally a net exporter of electricity, even became a net importer of electricity in the first half of 2022 due to the issues at its nuclear power plants. 

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RTE stressed last month that under no circumstances does France run a risk of a “blackout”, that is, a total loss of control of the electricity system. During periods of strained supply, France could avoid outages by reducing consumption by between 1% and 5% in the base-case scenario, and by up to 15% in the worst-case scenario, RTE said.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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