France’s ageing nuclear plants shut down many reactors for maintenance last winter, forcing the country to import electricity for the first time since 1980. This year less turbulence is expected for the country’s power sector and France is again becoming a key electricity exporter, according to energy expert Nicolas Goldberg, energy expert at Colombus consulting and for the Terra Nova think tank.
Are France’s nuclear power stations better prepared for winter than last year?
The situation is undeniably much better than last year. The availability of nuclear power supply in October was comparable to that of 2019 [i.e. at its highest level for four years]. Not all the reactor maintenance problems have been resolved, but progress has been made. Concerns for this winter are very moderate, especially as there are still traces of last year’s energy savings plan.
Will this mean lower prices for customers?
Market prices are set by anticipating the next day’s price and by confidence in production. In September, French market prices were below German prices, which is almost unheard of. This shows that confidence has returned. It’s also good news for Europe. France is once again exporting electricity, and we’re even close to maximum export capacity. The French nuclear system has once again become an asset for the European market.
Could the situation in the Middle East, on the other hand, push up European energy prices?
Gas markets are very nervous, and following the Hamas attacks, gas prices jumped slightly. But in the medium term, there shouldn’t be any major consequences. Israeli gas is hardly ever exported to Europe.