France will need to stay vigilant to meet electricity needs during the winter as shortages are possible in the event of a cold snap, though the situation is more favourable than projected in the spring, power grid operator RTE said on Thursday.
In December, the risk of supply difficulties are significantly reduced as the nuclear fleet and meteorological conditions are in accordance with the normal seasonal forecast for the next 45 days, RTE said in a press release.
The nuclear fleet is expected to have 50 gigawatts (GW) of capacity online by the end of December and up to 55 GW available in January, compared to the 48.3 GW available on Thursday.
The country could experience supply deficits in January and February if temperatures fall between 2 degrees Celsius and 7 degrees Celsius below seasonal norms over several consecutive days, RTE said.
Then, at the end of February, 13 reactors – accounting for about 10 GW of availability – will be shut down for maintenance that has been postponed since the start of the health crisis.
In the event of a shortage, RTE said it would either stop delivery to industries that consume large amounts of electricity or lower the voltage in the distribution network.
As a last resort, the company would organise “temporary, anticipated, localised, and rotating” power cuts in an effort to protect sensitive consumers.
RTE plans to expand the use of its Ecowatt system that provides colour coded warnings for current supply conditions and encourages individuals to reduce their consumption.
In recent days, French utility EDF has revised its nuclear reactor outage calendar, and is now expecting several reactors back online earlier than previously scheduled.
Nuclear output in October was down 3.3% from last year due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and reactor outages, a markedly lower year-on-year drop compared to previous months.
In mid-October EDF raised its estimate for total 2020 nuclear production to around 325-335 terawatt hours (TWh). (Reporting by Forrest Crellin, Benjamin Mallet and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Jan Harvey, Kirsten Donovan)