The concerns put forward by RTE, in March 2021, on France’s electricity supply for the coming winters have still not been lifted. In his latest study, published Monday, November 22, the operator of the electricity transmission network, responsible for balancing supply and demand, continues to place security of supply “Under special vigilance”.
It does not preclude having recourse to specific measures, such as stopping the supply of certain large customers (in agreement with them), a drop in the voltage on the distribution network, or even targeted load shedding, in particular. last resort.
Little risk until the end of the year
But by the end of December, the risk of coming to such extremes “Remains relatively low”, believes RTE. Its analysis is based on the availability of the production fleet and on 45-day weather reports, including wind forecasts. A crucial point for wind power. RTE is counting on a “Load factor” (the time when the machines produce) of about 30% this winter, compared to 23% in general over the year. But that’s just an average. In September, this rate had fallen to 3%.
Electricity consumption has not yet returned to its pre-health crisis level either, which gives additional margins. Even if it has recovered, it remains 1 to 2% lower than at the end of 2019, due to weaker activity in industry and transport, where electricity demand is 5 to 10% below from what it was two years ago. France could also call on imports, with nearly 10 GW of available capacity.
Situation more tense from January
For the second part of the winter, however, the situation remains more tense, if a cold snap arises in January or February, for example. Certainly, the stocks of the hydraulic park are good, the solar and wind capacities have increased this year and the thermal power stations can be called in as backup (even marginally for the four coal units still in service).
But not all nuclear reactors will be in operation and the availability of EDF’s fleet remains at a very low level. Of the 56 reactors in service, between 5 and 15 will be shut down this winter, depending on the week, which represents an availability rate “Historically low” and “At a level similar to that of last winter”, argues RTE.
The pandemic has shaken up EDF’s maintenance schedule
According to him, “The effects of the Covid-19 crisis have not yet been absorbed”. The confinements have, in fact, upset EDF’s schedule and postponed the maintenance of certain reactors to the winter period. But there are also the shutdowns linked to the ten-yearly outages, which have been planned for a long time and will be more and more numerous in the coming years as the fleet ages.
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These are heavy operations, lasting several months, which aim to extend the life of the reactors and therefore cannot be postponed. This is the case for five reactors at the moment, and three other ten-yearly outages are due to start between mid-January and mid-March.
To all this are added the current shutdowns on four reactors which could last longer than expected, according to EDF. Cautious, RTE has also planned to update these forecasts for this winter, at the end of December and during January. A first.