France asks electricity exports to UK are cut as energy crisis deepens

Alison Hammond discusses potential blackouts

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France reportedly asked the National Grid if it could slash its scheduled exports to Britain in half between 8am and 9am this morning as it struggled to cope with surging demand amid its own power issues. The power output issues were reportedly brought on by a lethal combination of the cold weather, strikes across its nuclear sector and delayed maintenance on its fleet of ageing nuclear reactors.

France’s electricity network operator put in the request to the UK as Britain also grappled with its own fears amid the cold snap which has plunged parts of the UK into cold temperatures as snow fell and caused travel chaos. 

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.

Jean-Paul Harreman, Director of EnAppSys BV, told Energy News Live: “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.”

This is a breaking story. More to follow.

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