Unlike last year, France should spend the winter free from any risk of power cuts. This is the reassuring message sent this Wednesday by the electricity transmission network manager (RTE), citing “full dams”, repaired nuclear power plants and new electricity production capacities such as the offshore wind farm. of Saint-Brieuc.
Last year, France was able to get through the peaks of tensions last year. Eight red Ecowatt signals and twelve red Ecowatt signals, involving rotating power cuts, were avoided last year, recalled Xavier Piechaczyk, Chairman of the RTE Board of Directors. For winter
Last winter, French consumers, individuals and businesses, reduced their electricity consumption by 8 to 9%, excluding weather effects. This drop was maintained, compared to the pre-crisis average during the summer. This allows RTE to count on maintaining this sobriety, due to prices that are still relatively high and the energy saving incentives formulated by the public authorities.
Production is also clearly improving. After the historic low awaits the French nuclear fleet, due in part to the so-called stress corrosion crisis. “A certain number of repairs went well and schedules were respected,” underlines Thomas Veyrenc, Member of the RTE Management Board in charge of Economy, Strategy and Finance. The nuclear fleet has not returned to its pre-crisis levels, but “it is significantly more than last year”. Another factor comes into play, the good filling of the dams in spring and early autumn, which places the production of hydraulic electricity at the top of the historical envelope, after a summer of 2022 marked by drought.
Other renewable energies and particularly wind power, which contributes most to the security of our energy mix in winter, are also in a favorable trend. Wind power will once again become the third source of electricity, ahead of gas which doubled it last year. Finally, regarding gas, emergency measures have been put in place, notably making it possible to have “almost” full gas stocks. “We are in an interconnected system, our neighbors’ gas stocks can influence us,” adds Thomas Veyrenc. Finally, France still has two coal-fired power plants that can be mobilized if necessary. Another important lever concerns demand response offers, that is to say a voluntary cessation of electricity consumption by users, in order to preserve the balance of the system. A provision aimed at limiting the available electrical power is under study.
However, certain uncertainties remain over January and February, due to unpredictable weather conditions to date, but also energy consumption, the effective availability of the nuclear fleet and finally the situation in neighboring countries.
On the price side, the good news is that the risk premium that was specific to France has disappeared. France does not overpay for its electricity on the markets to obtain supplies.
The Ecowatt alert system, intended to warn users of a risk of tension on the network and to call for a shift in consumption, the possibility of it switching to orange or red is also “low”, according to Xavier Piechaczyk. The signal should therefore remain green all winter.
The application, downloaded more than 3 million times, offers an additional functionality: it indicates at what times of the day, peak of the night, solar hours, spring, the electricity consumption is likely to be covered by the combined production of the nuclear, hydraulic, wind and solar parks, and can therefore be considered “carbon-free”, in other words, not emitting greenhouse gases. These are times when national consumption is entirely covered by national production and composed of renewable and nuclear electricity. “More than 90% of our annual electricity production already comes from carbon-free production, coming from nuclear, hydraulic, wind and solar,” recalled Xavier Piechaczyk