the social movement on EDF sites could have “serious consequences” this winter

In its latest outlook for the electricity system in the coming months, the electricity transmission system operator (RTE) is fairly reassuring for the coming winter, but warns of the risks strikes could pose at EDF nuclear power plants.

So far so good. This is how we could summarize RTE’s outlook for the electricity system in the period from mid-October to mid-November, which corresponds to the start of the duty period. These analyzes were started in September and are now updated every month by the manager of the electricity transmission network.

“The development of the various parameters in a month gives credibility, for the heart of winter, to the central scenario of RTE presented on September 14”, the document summarizes.

Electricity consumption has already fallen

Several elements enable the manager to show his optimism. Firstly, structural electricity consumption, i.e. with correction for the vagaries of the weather, is down. A shift which is naturally explained by the increase in energy prices and which is logically driven by producers who are highly exposed to this price increase. Furthermore, the gradual implementation of the sobriety plan should accentuate this trend in the coming weeks.

As BFM Business notes each week in its energy dashboard, gas reserves have already reached their technical maximum, while hydropower reserves are approaching their usual levels for this time of year “due to prudent management by operators”. “This is a positive factor which makes it possible to approach winter more calmly”, continues RTE. Especially as it is unlikely that severe cold spells will occur before All Hallows’ Day.

“Based on these elements, RTE expects a very low risk to the security of supply in the next two weeks and a moderate risk in early November”, emphasizes the manager, who maintains his diagnosis of vigilance over the winter.

Strikes at EDF are a big gray area

The electricity transmission system operator, however, conditions the effective fulfillment of these forecasts to a size factor that has recently appeared in the French energy landscape. As mentioned for several weeks, especially by the members of the executive, EDF is involved in a race against the clock to restart the largest number of its nuclear reactors, a large part of which is immobilized due to maintenance work or against corrosion. Currently, 25 structures out of the 56 managed by the energy company are functioning.

“The last few weeks have confirmed the good progress in the work on stress corrosion, notes RTE. This inventory confirms that the presence of reactors affected by the phenomenon of stress corrosion and prioritized for repair in the autumn is highly “derisked” on the technical and industrial level. It lends credibility to the prospect of 45 GW availability in the heart of winter.”

The problem is that since last week a social movement has taken over EDF’s nuclear power plants and half of them were affected at the end of last weekend. As it stands, these strikes do not yet pose a significant risk to energy supplies over the winter, but the horizon could darken if the movement continues.

“An extension of the social movement would have serious consequences for the heart of winter”, insists the leader.

“This situation does not call into question the central track that RTE has presented for the months of December and January. It nevertheless constitutes a real guarantee of the availability of the park during the month of November.”

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