France plans rolling blackouts in winter

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By Blackout News

The electricity supply in France is massively endangered. France normally generates a good 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear power plants. However, 24 of the 56 reactors are currently not connected to the grid due to repair and maintenance work. Many French households heat with electricity in winter. Their power supply may no longer be sufficiently possible in winter, at least locally.

France is now planning rolling blackouts if there are corresponding supply problems (time: 05.09.22).

Energy supplier RTE plans hourly rolling blackouts

The French energy supplier RTE admits that it is unique in the history of the country that the electricity has to be temporarily switched off. But it is now clear that the country will not be able to produce enough electricity in the winter months if consumers do not drastically reduce their electricity consumption. Therefore, the energy supplier assumes that there may be rolling blackouts in winter.

Energy supplier RTE is planning hourly rolling blackouts in France. Ministry of Economic Affairs rules out impact on Germany
Image: Xavier SayanoffCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The supply problems are now so serious that RTE has already drawn up concrete plans to shut down individual districts or entire regions. The shutdowns should always take place when the energy demand is highest. According to RTE, however, no household would be without electricity for more than two hours. The power shutdowns would take place in the time windows between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Hospitals, police stations and other important infrastructure are to be exempted from the shutdowns. RTE is planning a press conference by mid-September, where it will publish the details.

Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Network Agency rule out effects on Germany

The Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Network Agency assure that power shutdowns in France will have no impact on the German electricity supply. Due to the associated reduction in European electricity consumption, the shutdowns in France could even have a positive effect on the European electricity market, according to a spokeswoman for the Federal Network Agency. “It’s better for France to cut off electricity in individual neighborhoods than for an unplanned blackout to threaten the entire European power grid,” she said, commenting on RTE’s plans.

The former electricity exporter France, with its aging nuclear reactors, has become one of the weakest links in the European electricity supply. In the winter, France was already dependent on electricity imports from its neighbouring countries on several occasions. In the meantime, France has to cover its electricity needs all year round with electricity imports. In summer, most of the imported electricity comes from Germany, when renewable energies produce more than is needed in their own country. But in winter, if at all, such surpluses very rarely occur. In addition, this winter there will also be the shutdown of the last three nuclear power plants in Germany.

In France, a good 50 percent of all households heat with electricity. As a result, an output of three smaller nuclear power plants is already required if the outside temperature drops by only one degree Celsius in winter. The energy expert, Yves Marignac, from the environmental organization négaWatt, comments on the situation as follows: “France’s politics are responsible if there are massive electricity problems in Europe in the coming winter. In the coming months, home-grown problems will unfortunately accumulate.”

French buy electric auxiliary heaters to save gas

Meanwhile, the French government is also warning of local blackouts. In a radio interview, the Minister of Energy, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, said: “We will do everything to ensure that it does not come to that”. In order to avoid the impending power shutdowns, however, consumers would have to consume at least ten percent less electricity. Currently, the demand for electricity is increasing, because many users of gas heaters have bought new electric radiators for heating due to the horrendous gas prices. By capping the electricity price, heating an apartment is considerably cheaper. Electricity prices would be a good 44 percent more expensive without state intervention. This means that it is only a matter of time before planned rolling blackouts occur in France.