Europe’s operators taking emergency measures as new energy crisis looms

Energy network operators around Europe are taking emergency measures as the threat of another energy adequacy crisis is considered possible over the next few days due to sub-zero temperatures forecast for around the continent and current power production limitations in France. The prospect has prompted fears of electricity blackouts.

France’s diminished electricity production capacity, caused by the temporary withdrawal of nuclear power stations, is at the core of Europe’s energy adequacy concerns. Electricity may have to be imported from neighboring countries.

According to forecasts, the current week’s remainder poses the biggest threat, prompting Europe’s operators to take action.

Reliable European sources believe that the looming energy crisis, following two preceding periods of turmoil experienced over the past few weeks, could develop into a crisis of major proportions as the energy deficit in France may reach as much as 1.5 GW. Analysts believe France’s electricity grid will be particularly challenged if demand exceeds 100 GW.

Thursday evening, around 19:00 French time, has been pinpointed as the time period of greatest concern. Domestic electricity demand is forecast to reach 101.6 GW, just 600 MW below the all-time record set on February 8, 2012. French electricity production capacity has fallen to 104 GW since the start of the year as a result of the temporary withdrawal of nuclear power stations. The country’s production capacity in 2012 measured 126.4 GW.

Highlighting the level of concern, Professor Damien Ernst of the University of Liege in Belgium, a country where strategic power reserves are maintained through power stations not normally used, warned that importing electricity could prove difficult.

“Even by activating the strategic reserve, we will need to find 1,700-1,800 MW from abroad, most likely from the Netherlands. But France and Belgium will both want to be able to import electricity from the Netherlands, so the risk is that it could even be difficult to import these 1,700-1,800 megawatts from this country,” Professor Ernst told Euronews.

Measures are also being taken by operators in the Balkans, a region where questionable moves were made during the recent energy crisis. Bulgarian authorities, for example, opted to stop electricity exports. The measure remains valid. Also, Romania refused to accept a Bulgarian request for increased exports to the latter country. Romania is considering imposing an electricity consumption restriction on the country’s industrial sector, according to local press.