The security of France’s electricity supply should be guaranteed this winter, according to the country’s electricity transmission company, RTE, but extra care will need to be taken in January-February and if demand outstrips production, France could need energy from Belgium during those two months. However, Belgium expects a “difficult” situation in the first two months of 2019.
“The supply of electricity should be guaranteed in Winter 2018-2019,” RTF stated on Thursday as it presented its electricity-supply forecast. “This winter, if we have normal temperatures, i.e. corresponding to the seasonal norms, there is no particular alert,” RTE Operations Director Jean-Paul Roubin explained at a press conference.
However, vigilance is needed from mid-January to late February.
The availability of the EDF nuclear plants will generally be better in autumn and at the end of winter than in the corresponding period of last year, the French utility noted, adding that “on the other hand, from mid-January to the end of February, five reactors will be closed, as against three last year.”
“The availability of production in France and our consumption forecasts enable France to export to Belgium at a time when the availability of installed capacity is lower in Belgium,” Jean-Paul Roubin said.
Only two of the seven nuclear reactors Electrabel (Engie) operates in Belgium are currently working, sparking fears that the country is in for an energy shortage. The Government has called on neighbouring countries to provide help if needed.
“Normally, plants in Belgium should resume operations from January, and that’s when, if the weather is cold, France could see its consumption increase,” Roubin said. “At that moment, we could reverse the trend and obtain imported energy from Belgium, which would help make our electricity supply secure.”
However, Belgian Energy Minister Marie Christine Marghem confirmed this week that power-generation prospects for January-February next year were still bleak.
Electrabel announced on Tuesday that work at the Doel I nuclear plant, where operations were to have resumed on 10 December, would take much longer than scheduled and that its reconnection to the grid was not expected before late January 2019. On the other hand, operations at the Tihange 3 nuclear plant could resume earlier than expected, in January, if a mode of operation proposed by Electrabel is accepted by the Federal Nuclear Control Agency.
France’s RTE also recalled that, where necessary, and especially in the event of extremely cold weather or if production suddenly stops, exceptional measures could be taken. These include lowering the tension on the grid, appealing to the public to save on energy, holding over big industrial consumers selected by public tender and, as a last resort, organising localised power cuts on a rotating basis.