France faces power cuts and electricity rationing as shortage threatens

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Before that, it would shut off supply to industrial companies or lower the voltage in the distribution network. Coronavirus disrupted nuclear plant maintenance earlier this year, meaning work will have to be carried out at the end of winter, putting a significant strain on supplies. If temperatures drop below average for a number of days in a row, emergency measures may have to be put in place.

France’s Environment Minister Barbara Pompili earlier today denied power cuts, saying: “There will be no blackouts in France.”

But the subsequent update by RTE shows the country could experience deficits as early as January.

Supplies are looking healthier for December, with the nuclear fleet 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.

But the country could experience supply deficits in January and February if temperatures fall between 2C and 7C 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 an update today, RTE said it would organise “temporary, anticipated, localised, and rotating” power cuts in an effort to protect sensitive consumers.

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).

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