Electricity: should we fear cuts this winter?

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A dark start to winter? Energy consumption in France is at the heart of concerns for the coming weeks, as temperatures should start to drop after the unprecedented heat episode of the next few days. Who says drop in the thermometer, says increase in energy consumption. Electricity production in France is already weakened by the maintenance and repairs currently underway on the nuclear fleet and could be even more so by the strikes in the power plants, which have been underway for several weeks.

A month ago, in the middle of September, RTE was optimistic for the coldest season, citing a “very low” to “moderate” risk for the security of electricity supply. Something to reassure French people worried about finding themselves in the dark and who have been asked to make efforts on their consumption since the end of the summer. Bad news, the company has revised its copy somewhat this Tuesday, October 18 and its new forecasts are more pessimistic than last month.

The work currently being carried out on various reactors is progressing “favorably”, explains the company, but there is a shadow on the board: strikes in nuclear power plants. As RTE pointed out on Tuesday 18 October, “social movements have led to extensions of shutdowns generally of two to three weeks on reactors whose return to service was imminent or close” and they “also cause delays in the maintenance” of other reactors. Questioned by Planet, the head of the network specifies: “Nuclear availability in France is low this winter, it is even the lowest historically. If we add to that extensions of strikes, therefore shutdowns of reactors, it will worsen the situation “.

Of the 56 reactors in the French nuclear fleet, 27 are currently shut down, i.e. almost half… In its new forecasts, RTE is concerned about this situation and even mentions a “negative outlook” in November for nuclear. What is the scenario for the next few weeks? Are we going to have to step up our efforts? Should we be afraid of cuts? We take stock.

Should we fear cuts in the coming weeks? It is not excluded… But not for now. With Planet, RTE evokes “risks of tension on the electrical system this winter”. In the event of a severe cold snap, electricity consumption increases, it is logical. So, if temperatures drop in the coming weeks, “we could run out of production to meet demand,” the company told us.

For the next few weeks, until the middle of November, don’t panic, because “the weather is rather favorable, so electricity consumption should not increase very sharply”. It is therefore a “low to moderate” risk for the next few weeks of autumn, but, as RTE explains to us, there are “uncertainties” from the middle of November… we avoid cuts?

Several winter scenarios are on the table with RTE. In the one that is “most degraded”, electricity production is low and electricity consumption is higher, due to a severe cold snap. “In these cases, consumption must be reduced by 15%”, explains the company, while it noted for the month of September a drop of only “3 to 4%”. “It will therefore be necessary to accentuate this drop on Ecowatt red days, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.”, adds RTE to Planet.

In the meantime, we must maintain efforts to prepare for winter and respect energy sobriety: “The reduction in consumption applies all the time, but we also ask to shift the uses, to make additional efforts on the day of the Ecowatt rouge “, concludes the network manager. In the event of massive load shedding, the outage plan is drawn up the day before for the following day.