France and the U.K. are the two nations in Europe most at risk of power shortages this winter, particularly if there is a cold snap in early December or January.
With availability of Electricite de France SA’s French nuclear fleet at the lowest level in a decade, the nation will need to rely on imports during several weeks and adding a cold spell to that could make the situation “tense,” according to European grid group Entsoe’s Winter Outlook report. Britain may face a power deficit in early January if temperatures fall below average, it said in the report.
The Entsoe analysis indicated that even under severe conditions, demand can be met and reserves maintained across nearly all of Europe, thanks to surpluses in most regions and available interconnector capacity. The U.K. potentially needs high imports from all neighboring countries in the week from Jan. 9. A combination of low wind and cold temperatures means there might be a deficit.
Delays to restarts of several French reactors undergoing safety checks at the request of regulator ASN will mean “significantly” decreased margins in the first three weeks of December. French electricity demand is highly sensitive to cold weather and a drop of 1 degree Celsius below normal can add 2,400 megawatts, according to Entsoe.
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Reseau de Transport d’Electricite, the French grid operator, earlier this month warned of an increasing risk of power shortages in Europe’s second-biggest market. It has several options to reduce demand if needed, including the last-resort possibility of rolling blackouts. The U.K. has a reserve of power stations it can activate and National Grid Plc has described this winter as “tight but manageable.”
French month-ahead power more than doubled in the past year. The contract jumped to 138 euros a megawatt-hour on Nov. 3, the highest level since at least 2007, when Bloomberg began tracking the data. The U.K. equivalent price rose to the highest for eight years the same day.
Germany, Europe’s biggest power market, could have the opposite problem. Demand around Christmas may be so low that if it coincides with windy weather the oversupply could be “critical” and lead to negative prices.
To mitigate the situation, Germany will procure a higher amount of so-called negative control reserve. The grid operators will also be able to reduce wind power to stop the grid from overloading, Entsoe said.
Total generating capacity in Europe has increased by about 11 gigawatts in the past year as 12.8 gigawatts of solar and wind, 6.6 gigawatts of hydro and gas plants came online, according to Entsoe. A total of 8.2 gigawatts of oil and coal capacity shut permanently.