France requests electricity exports to UK are cut as Europe’s energy crisis deepens
France and Britain exchange energy across the Channel via interconnections, but France’s nuclear power output has taken a hit in recent months
By Jacob Paul
14:43, Mon, Dec 12, 2022 | UPDATED: 15:59, Mon, Dec 12, 2022
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France’s electricity network operator RTE has reportedly asked the National Grid if it could slash its scheduled exports to Britain in half between 8am and 9am this morning. It is said it struggled to cope with surging demand amid its own power issues, and cold temperatures. The power output issues were reportedly brought on by a lethal combination of the plunging mercury, strikes across its nuclear sector and delayed maintenance on its fleet of ageing nuclear reactors.
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France’s electricity network operator put in the request to the UK as Britain also grappled with its own mission to keep its grid well balanced.
Snow has blanketed much of Britain today – with National Grid warming its coal resources as part of a back-up plan.
Phil Hewitt, a director at EnAppSys, said: “The French market was particularly under stress today. It was always going to be in trouble because of the reduced nuclear reactor fleet, the temperature is low and there has been a big demand spike combined with low wind.”
During a normal winter, Britain relies on French energy imports to help meet demand, particularly during peak hours in the early evening.
But last week, the experts warned that France could suffer from an energy shortage, raising fears that the nation would have to cut its exports to the UK like it has asked to do today.
A photograph shows an aerial view of an electric power station in the countryside of Saint-Laurent-d (Image: GETTY )
National Grid suddenly scraps back-up plan as Britain battles sub-zero freeze
National Grid has cancelled an emergency back-up plan after it put two coal units on standby amid plummeting temperatures to ensure that the UK does not plunge into darkness as snow blankets the country.
Two of the grid operator’s reserve coal-fired power stations were given notice as the network faces a huge surge in demand amid this current cold snap which is set to last until the end of the week at least.
Parts of Britain have endured temperatures as low as -10C, with health chiefs encouraging people to heat their homes.
Strikes, cold weather and ageing nuclear reactors are causing power issues in France (Image: Getty )
Jean-Paul Harreman, Director of EnAppSys BV, told Energy NewsLive: ‘We have been analysing the tightness in markets quite closely over the past months. During the moderate weather, we have already highlighted the risk of a demand spike when temperatures would drop, especially in the period before Christmas, when nuclear capacity was still on its way back up.
“With recent revisions of capacity availability, we highlighted the potential of the market reaching the maximum import levels. Last year, we saw a highest import of 13GW into the French market, but this year there is more than 13GW of additional nuclear capacity offline compared to that period.
“At current demand levels, around 70GW, the available capacity, combined with interconnectors, will be sufficient to satisfy demand. If we get a very cold spell, however, demand could spike up to levels above 90GW. If that happens, there is a significant risk of the market not clearing due to a shortage of supply.
“If the interconnectors are maxed out, it doesn’t matter how much surplus capacity and how much gas in storage other countries have, it can’t reach the French market.”
France’s nuclear power output has been plummeting (Image: Getty )
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National Grid warned that the UK may fail to shore up enough energy imports from Europe this winter and may have to roll out planned blackouts in the coldest winter months to avoid full-blown power outages.
Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, has previously told Express.co.uk that shortages in France make blackouts in the UK “more likely”.
He said: “The issues at French nuclear power stations, coupled with the potential shortages of gas for power generation on the continent, do mean that the UK is likely to have more difficulty in securing imports this winter – National Grid has included this scenario in its ‘Winter Outlook’, as one of the factors that would make power shortages more likely.”
And today, National Grid have looked poised to roll out another backup plan amid the cold snap and prospect of slashed exports from France after it ordered two coal units at Drax’s power plant in Yorkshire to be put on standby.
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National Grid has warned of planned blackouts under an emergency plan (Image: Getty )
There are fears the UK may not be able to shore up enough energy imports from Europe this winter (Image: Express)
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It has since cancelled the plan, and said that the notice “should give the public confidence in Monday’s energy supply”. The network operator was also still encouraging people to continue to use energy “as normal”.
While France may have to slash its exports to the UK to avoid its own crisis, Dr Jeff Hardy, Senior Research Fellow at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, has said there will come a time when Britain will send the excess energy it does not need across the Channel.
He said: “Interconnection is a good thing as it diversifies our supply, enhancing electricity system resilience. France has been suffering from nuclear power outages, which has led to a tight electricity market in France. Historically, France has supplied the UK with cheap power from its nuclear fleet. Now, it needs help, which is exactly why interconnection is a good thing for European security.
“At the same time, the UK has been rapidly increasing its renewable electricity generation, particularly offshore wind. In the future, this means the UK will be a net exporter of wind power, particularly on windy days when demand is low. This means we will need more interconnectors in the future as there will be days when we need to shed power.”