France bets on coal to ensure power supply

Lazy eyes listen


France’s national grid operator RTE announced on Tuesday that it may have to keep its remaining two coal-fired power reactors on standby this winter to ensure electrical supply security.

According to RTE’s forecast of forthcoming power demands, the country is in a “much” better position this winter than a year ago. However, rising demand during the country’s long-term energy transition will put a strain on supplies, it cautioned, adding that in the event of a nuclear-power deficit or a lack of renewables, coal facilities may be required.

“We’ll need solutions to meet longer imbalances in 2030, given Europe’s decarbonization goals,” said Thomas Veyrenc, executive director in charge of strategy at RTE. Including more “flexibilities” such as battery storage and shifting tools.

France generates roughly 70% of its electricity from a stable of 56 nuclear reactors, all operated by state-owned utility EDF. Most of them have faced recurring corrosion issues and were either shut down or are undergoing maintenance, causing a sharp drop in power generation. The country used to be a net power exporter and is now expected to rely heavily on electricity imports from neighboring states to meet winter demand.

The French government extended permission for power providers to burn extra coal last month in order to avoid shortages this winter. At the same time, authorities have tightened regulations for plant operation. According to the French Ecological Transition Ministry, electricity producers will be allowed to run for up to 1,800 hours, or almost 11 weeks, in the coming winter, down from 2,500 hours last year.

According to reports, the remaining two coal-fired plants contributed for only 0.6% of the country’s power generation last year. The facilities, according to Veyrenc, might eventually be altered to process biomass or replaced by smaller ones that run on biofuels or green hydrogen.