France should not need any imports to meet its electricity demand over the coming winter although the situation could be tighter elsewhere in Europe, the operator of the French grid has warned. Meanwhile, German industry has warned against taking the country's success as an electricity exporter at face value.
RTE is an independent subsidiary of French utility EDF and operates the largest transmission network in Europe. Its analysis of the supply-demand balance for winter 2012-2013 forecasts that France will not need to import any power under normal winter weather conditions. A favourable schedule of plant shutdowns and maintenance outages, partly offset by the availability of new capacity (mostly wind farms and combined cycle gas turbines) will mean that available French generating capacity will remain largely stable and comparable to last winter, although demand forecasts are slightly higher. Nevertheless, the country - with 58 operating nuclear reactors - still expects to be a net electricity exporter over the period.
Should the country experience and "intense and sustained" cold spell, with temperatures 6-8°C below seasonal averages, or a "notable deterioration" in generating plant availability, it could require imports of up to 5400 MWe.
RTE says that availability of generation in Europe over the winter should remain broadly similar to last year, but notes that the situation across the region could become tighter "in the event of a combination of unfavourable contingencies in several countries." This time last year, it expressed some concerns about the effects of the German nuclear phaseout on the availability of capacity, but now says it expects the German situation to remain broadly unchanged from winter 2011-2012. However, based on currently available information, RTE notes that Belgium could find itself in need of a "significant level of imports."
European grid operators' body the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E) will publish its own outlook on the European situation at the end of November.
German reality check
Meanwhile, an industrial association representing German industrial and commercial energy consumers has cautioned against assuming that the country's recent levels of electricity exports represent a successful transition to a new energy regime.
In a statement, the Federation of Industrial Energy and Power Industry (VIK) said that the intermittent nature of solar and wind power is undermining the conventional thermal plants needed to provide stability of supply. Although Germany is able to export its renewable energy at times of peak renewable production and low demand, it faces paying high prices to ensure its own demand is met at peak times, the organisation noted.
"Although Germany still remains a net exporter of electricity through its expensive renewables, it would be very misleading to evaluate this outcome as a success in itself," VIK director general Annete Loske noted. Loske called for further emphasis on network expansion, storage technologies and load management capabilities as Germany continues its so-called energy transition.
Researched and written
by Word Nuclear News