This is a first at this time of year, even if the current temperatures are those of a winter month. The electricity transmission network operator (RTE) launched a call on Monday 4 April to reduce electricity consumption between 6 a.m. and noon, and especially between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., which is the peak period. . He evokes a ” tense situation “.
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He does not speak of cuts, unless “hazard” were to intervene, but asks to adopt the “good gestures”, such as lowering the temperature of your home when you’re away during the day or completely turning off devices on standby.
“These gestures can have a real impact. For exemple, if all French people turn off a light bulb, this leads to a saving in electricity consumption of 600 MW, which is approximately the consumption of a city like Toulouse”explains RTE in its press release, also recommending not to run washing machines and dishwashers on Monday morning.
A lack of electricity
With the current cold snap, electricity consumption is on the rise. It should reach 73 GW at 9 a.m. We are certainly far from the 85 GW peaks observed in France last January. But given the importance of electric heating in France (about a third of homes are equipped with it), the dependence on electrons is very high. According to RTE, each degree less in winter requires an additional 2,400 MW to be put on the network. Which is complicated right now.
Monday, April 4, at 9 a.m., electricity production should not exceed 65 GW. Theoretically, France should be able to import electricity up to 11 GW, provided our neighbors can supply it. In Germany, for example, electron exports largely depend on the wind conditions that make it possible to turn wind farms in the north of the country or not.
Nuclear production at rock bottom
The main reason for this tension on the electricity system is the low availability of the nuclear fleet, whose production could fall this year a little below 300 terawatt hours (TWh), i.e. the lowest level ever reached since the construction of the fleet of EDF. It was 375 TWh in 2019 and 416.8 TWh in 2015.
Currently, 27 nuclear reactors are unavailable out of 56. Unheard of. The corrosion problems encountered in five of them this fall, on a pipe bend in the emergency cooling circuit used in the event of an accident, do not explain everything, even if EDF has since extended its investigations. to six other reactors. In the coming months, the entire park should be subject to ultrasonic checks.
The disorganization of EDF
But the electrician must above all deal with the aging of its fleet, with the passage to 40 years, which requires shutdowns of several months for ten-yearly inspections allowing the reactors to operate for ten more years. “There is great industrial disorganization in the management of unit outages. Between the head office and the directors of the plant, the dialogue is not optimal”judges a former leader.
EDF is also having a lot of trouble recovering from periods of confinement, during the pandemic, which forced it to spread out, or even postpone, some of these visits, due to a lack of available staff, particularly in subcontracting companies.
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There remains the question of the closure of Fessenheim, in 2020. It had been decided by François Hollande in 2012, in the name of an alliance with environmentalists, and confirmed in 2017 by his successor Emmanuel Macron, who had brought Nicolas Hulot into his government. The two Fessenheim reactors were the oldest in the fleet, but the Safety Authority had classified them among the most efficient. Their absence is felt today.