the unexpected drop in consumption has made it possible to avoid cuts this winter
Never in several decades has the risk of power cuts been so high. Tensions over gas supply in the context of the war in Ukraine, historic unavailability of the nuclear fleet due to maintenance operations and corrosion problems, equally historic drop in hydropower production… As of September 2022, the manager of the electricity transmission network RTE warned of the possibility of having to resort to rotating load shedding and launched the “Ecowatt” signal to raise awareness and mobilize the French.
Five months later, no alert has been issued and RTE returned, Thursday, March 16, to the reasons which explain why France escaped the cuts. Even before the weather conditions, the company highlights two fundamental elements. “The electricity consumption of the French, local authorities and businesses has dropped considerably, which was desirable but unexpected, and European electricity and gas exchanges have worked smoothly, underlined Xavier Piechaczyk, Chairman of the Board of RTE. Without it, we would have had a very different winter. »
Between October and February, consumption fell in France, excluding the weather effect, by around 9% compared to the reference period (2014-2019) – i.e. around 20 terawatt-hours (TWh). A decrease that can be explained by both economic factors and “price signals”, particularly in industry, but also by changes in behavior and sobriety or “waste hunting” measures.
“It is not easy to know which factor played in priority because these reasons are not exclusive, notes Thomas Veyrenc, Executive Director Strategy, Forecasting and Evaluation. But all sectors have mobilized since there has been a drop in consumption, in significant proportions, both in the tertiary sector, in industry and among households. » With regard to industry, the effect was relatively stable throughout the period and particularly marked on certain large sites in the steel, metallurgy and chemical sectors. In the tertiary and residential sectors, the heating lever is the one that has been used the most, with the drop in consumption being observed particularly during the coldest weeks.
While the winter was relatively mild, with temperatures slightly above normal (+0.8°C compared to winter standards), it was also marked by periods of cold. “The net effect on consumption linked to the weather is indeed downward but not very much, around 7 TWh, says Thomas Veyrenc. The effects associated with the drop in consumption are therefore three times greater than those associated with the weather. »
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