There may be no end in sight for the European power crunch this year, even after the winter season ends. Low nuclear power generation in France, a major producer and exporter of nuclear-powered electricity in Europe, could send power prices on the continent higher in the spring.
France gets more than 70 percent of its total electricity from nuclear power generation and is a major exporter of electricity, including to the UK.
France’s EDF stopped two nuclear power plants at the end of last year after finding a fault at one during routine maintenance. This brought the total number of nuclear plants out of operation in December to four, which accounted for 13 percent of the current power availability in France.
Last week, EDF revised down both its 2022 and 2023 nuclear output estimates. As part of its control program on the French nuclear fleet, EDF revised its 2022 nuclear output estimate from 300 – 330 TWh to 295 – 315 TWh, the company said on February 7. Days later, EDF revised down its 2023 French nuclear output estimate from 340 – 370 TWh to 300-330 TWh, to reflect a heavy industrial program with 44 reactor outages for maintenance and inspection, including 6 ten-year inspections, plus 2 scheduled outages starting in 2022 that will continue into 2023. Another reason for the nuclear output downgrade is “the continuation of the control and repair programme on the pipes potentially affected by the stress corrosion phenomenon, which is still ongoing,” EDF said.
“The latest update is particularly worrying for the market, as reduced nuclear generation will extend and exacerbate the European power crunch and continue to put pressure on the already-tight supply situation for electricity in France,” Fabian Ronningen, an analyst at Rystad Energy, told Bloomberg this week.
French President Emmanuel Macron has just unveiled plans for 13 new nuclear reactors in what he called a “renaissance” of the country’s nuclear power industry.
But until those reactors start generating electricity, lower than previously expected French nuclear power generation could further tighten Europe’s power market and push prices higher in the near term.