Increased risk of power outages in January 2023

The chairman of the executive board of RTE, Xavier Piechaczyk, during the launch of the Ecowatt system, in Paris, on October 11, 2022.

France’s electricity supply in January 2023 concentrates “more risk” than in October 2022, and this, due to a production of the nuclear fleet lower than expected, warned RTE, the manager of the French electricity network, during its monthly update published Friday, November 18. Thus, according to the “most likely scenario”only 40 gigawatts should be available at the beginning of January, i.e. around 65% of the installed nuclear capacity, due to the impact of the social movements of September and October and “delays and technical hazards” in routine maintenance.

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“The delays already accumulated on certain reactors make it improbable, even if still possible, to reach an availability of 45 gigawatts during this period”, said Thomas Veyrenc, executive director in charge of strategy, forecasting and evaluation of RTE, referring to the previous forecast. EDF would have to bring 15 of its reactors back into service by mid-December (25 out of a total of 56 are currently shut down) for the situation to improve, which is not the most likely scenario, according to RTE.

A solidarity agreement with Germany

In these circumstances, the risk of resorting to the Ecowatt device, a sort of smart Bison for electricity, and in particular the activation of its red alert signal, which warns of possible power cuts, appears “high on the month of January”even if this “will largely depend on weather conditions and the possible occurrence of even a moderate cold spell”, according to RTE. According to the Ministry of Energy Transition, it is “too early to confirm that power cuts will be necessary”, but RTE considers that they could, if they occurred, affect private individuals. To avoid reaching this point, the government is counting in particular on the signing, in the week of November 21, of a solidarity agreement in order to export electricity from Germany to France. “at maximum capacity”.

In the shorter term, however, the situation appears “low risk for the end of November, and medium risk for the beginning of December”, given the higher than normal seasonal temperatures and the decline in electricity consumption. Between the beginning of October and mid-November, it fell by 5% to 7%.

“At this stage, this structural drop in electricity demand compensates for the delay in the return to service of certain reactors”, we confirm at the Ministry of Energy Transition, where we insist on the fact that this decline is mainly due to industrialists. As a result, the level of risk should be distributed differently from what was predicted in October by RTE: “Less risk in December, more in January, and less in late February and March. »

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