Does the fall in the thermometer predicted for the coming days pose a risk to our gas and electricity supplies? Last year, EDF's difficulties in producing nuclear electricity, linked to the stress corrosion crisis at its nuclear power plants and the particularly low levels of hydroelectric dams, led to fears of the worst. All this while Europe, historically dependent on Russian gas imports, had not yet completely deployed its “plan B”. What about this year, when a sudden drop in temperatures is expected in France this weekend? “The strengthening of anticyclonic conditions is favoring the onset of cold weather in France with sharply falling temperatures several degrees below seasonal norms,” warns Météo France on its website. Even if, for the moment, the expected temperatures, although low, would not be abnormally low.
The Ministry of Energy Transition says it is “vigilant in the face of this cold spell” and reminds “the good actions of sobriety to save energy: I lower it, I turn it off, I shift it.” The ministry is nevertheless reassuring: “At this stage, there is no identified risk to the security of energy supply. The availability of the nuclear fleet is good, the production of renewable energies is also good (we also export a lot of electricity), and the gas stocks are full.” Vigilance remains essential, while heating represents the largest item in household electricity consumption.
In detail, at the beginning of November, the electricity transmission network manager (RTE) estimated that in this month of January “the availability of the nuclear fleet could reach a maximum of 50 gigawatts (GW) in January 2024 (i.e. 6 GW more than in January 2023). A good point given that nuclear power represents 65% to 70% of French electricity production. In addition, the filling level of hydraulic stocks remains above historical averages. Dams provide more than 10% of electricity production. They are thus on an equal footing, on a day like this Friday, with the wind turbines. The balance is provided by solar (at midday) and gas power plants. If necessary, the country can also count on its two coal-fired power plants.
The outlook is also reassuring on the gas front. European stocks are in fact 85.86% full on average, and French stocks are 82%. In addition, France, but also Germany, have significantly increased their liquefied natural gas (LNG) import and regasification capacities to inject it into the network. Although there is no question of burning the candle at both ends, or of outrageously raising the temperature at home, France is well equipped to weather the coming cold spell calmly.