Jan 6, 2023
French Nuclear Ramp-Up Aids Europe in Battling Energy Crisis
(Bloomberg) -- France is ramping up the availability of its state-owned fleet of nuclear reactors after months of extended outages, in a sign of relief for Europe as it battles a historic energy crisis.
The availability of Electricite de France SA’s 56 reactors hit 73% on Friday, according to grid data compiled by Bloomberg. That’s the highest since February and a strong increase from lows around 40% in August.
The return of the units gives the region another means to fight the energy supply crunch amid lower natural gas flows from Russia. Mild weather in recent weeks has helped to curb demand for both power and gas, helping to reduce prices as Europe seeks to escape winter without severe shortages.
Persistent issues among EDF’s reactors, including corrosion, have led to France importing more power from some of its neighbors, and to the country having the highest wholesale prices in Europe. German power exports to France hit their highest in 30 years, while Britain became a net exporter for the first time on record.
French power prices have dropped steeply from their summer highs, when wholesale costs for mid-winter electricity surged past €2,000 per megawatt-hour, around 40 times the historic normal. Power for February rose 4% to €225 on Friday — an anomaly in recent weeks — as the contract followed gas prices higher.
The trend for greater availability of reactors is expected continue as the government focuses on fixing the reactors. Nuclear generation should hit 324 terawatt-hours in 2023, about 16% higher than last year’s level, according to Sabrina Kernbichler, power analyst at S&P Global Commodity Insights. EDF is targeting an output of 300 to 330 terawatt-hours, although that’s still far below the average between 2015 to 2019.
The contribution of France’s nuclear fleet to Europe’s power mix may be counterbalanced by lower output from Germany and Belgium, where plants are due to close this year. The combined average output of ten of western Europe’s largest power markets is expected to stay unchanged on last year, at around 55 gigawatts, Kernbichler said.
--With assistance from Francois de Beaupuy.
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