France entering autumn with half its nuclear power plants sidelined

France’s nuclear power generation has fallen to its lowest level in 30 years, with just half the country’s nuclear facilities currently operating as a result of sidelined units with corrosion issues that need to be resolved before they can return to service.

Just days ago, France’s power utility EDF announced that the amount of recovery time needed by four sidelined nuclear power plants with a total capacity of 5.2 GW will be further extended, increasing the strain on the energy sector.

Uncertainty in the French energy market has driven electricity prices higher, especially electricity futures.

The situation is directly impacting neighboring markets, until recently dependent on French electricity imports.




Day-ahead market split for RES, thermal units requested

The Greek government has proposed target model structural changes, at a European level, that would split the day-ahead market into two entities, one for RES, hydropower and nuclear facilities, and another for natural gas and coal-fired power stations.

For the first of these two new day-ahead market entities, producers would forecast production quantities and be remunerated based on bilateral contracts, detached from the day-ahead market.

For the second of the two new entities, natural gas and coal-fired power station producers, covering remaining energy needs, would submit financial and volume offers based on existing rules.

The Greek proposal was presented by energy minister at an EU council meeting of energy ministers on July 26, energypress sources informed.

Preliminary talks on the Greek proposal have already been held. The European Commission plans to deliver alternative proposals for the target model’s functioning by September.

The day-ahead market determines clearing prices in the electricity market.



Greece, Bulgaria in talks for nuclear power supply deal

Greece and Bulgaria are engaged in preliminary talks exploring the possibility of a long-term agreement that would secure fixed amounts of electricity imports to Greece from a prospective nuclear power station in the neighboring country, the Bulgarian government’s deputy prime minister and finance minister Asen Vasilev has told local TV station Nova.

Greek government sources confirmed the news in comments to energypress, noting that talks aiming for such as an agreement have begun.

This would help bolster Greece’s energy security, given the wider insecurity created by Russian’s invasion of Ukraine. Greece would be supplied the majority of electricity produced by the prospective Bulgarian nuclear plant, it is understood.

Bulgaria’s nuclear power company would establish long-term supply agreements with one or more Greek electricity suppliers, sources said.

Early last week, a delegation of Bulgarian ministers visited Athens for a series of meetings, including with Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, energy-sector collaboration between the two countries being high on the agenda.

Brussels to propose windfall profit support for consumers

The European Commission, fearing the energy crisis will be prolonged, is moving towards adopting a French EU presidency proposal that would offer energy consumers support through redistribution of windfall profits earned by electricity producers in the RES, hydropower, nuclear and lignite sectors.

The European Commission strategy also includes a call for regulatory intervention to contain retail electricity prices.

The Brussels proposal, contrasting the European Commission’s energy-crisis stance until now, is included in a preliminary plan that was due to be officially announced next month but has been leaked by the EURACTIV media outlet.

Spain has already taken similar-minded action by taxing excessive earnings generated by nuclear power stations and large-scale RES facilities.

Conditional green status recognition for nuclear, gas activities in EU

The European Commission has begun a consultation procedure for new conditions that would recognize certain gas and nuclear activities as green activities, a 60-page Taxonomy Complementary Delegated Act distributed to member states at the turn of the year has indicated.

The new classification system, which will cover industries that produce about 80% of greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, is the first global attempt to define sustainable economic activity and help eradicate so-called green fraud (Green Washing).

Essentially, a list of activities is being formed that will guide the financial markets to finally decide which investment are eligible for financing.

Markets challenged by nuclear withdrawals, gas crisis, demand

A series of unfavorable developments, including nuclear reactor withdrawals in Germany and Belgium, persistently high natural gas prices and strong energy demand threaten will further test the European grid, threatening to prolong the energy crisis.

The withdrawal of nuclear reactors in Germany and Belgium, combined with skyrocketing natural gas prices, will negatively impact Europe’s electricity market, even in countries where natural gas holds a small share of the energy mix, as markets are interconnected, enabling a knock-on effect.

Germany has announced a withdrawal, today, of nuclear reactors with a combined capacity of 4.25 GW and remaining capacities, totaling about 4.3 GW, by end-2022. Overall, this phase-out represents 12 percent of the country’s electricity supply.

In addition, Germany’s new coalition intends to reassess the country’s existing decarbonization plan, its phase-out of fossil-fuel plants running until 2038, with the aim of shortening this procedure t0 2030, if possible.

Belgium is headed in the same direction. The country’s nuclear reactor phase-out runs until 2025. The country’s Doel 3 facility is planned to shut down in October, 2022, followed by Tihange 2 in early 2023.

Electricity demand in ten European countries is forecast to increase by 2 percent, or 5 GW, on average, in 2022, according to a Platts Analytics projection.

French forced withdrawal of nuclear plants at worst time

France’s withdrawal of four nuclear power stations in recent days, following the discovery of faults at some units and suspicions of issues at others, comes at a critical time for the European energy market, already deep in crisis, and could have a knock-on effect throughout Europe, as was the case during a previous round of problems at French facilities in the winter of 2016-17.

France is a backbone of Europe’s energy market as the country usually exports electricity to neighboring countries, helping steady price fluctuations. However, the country is currently without nearly one quarter of its electricity generation capacity, meaning it will need to forget about electricity exports for a while and import instead.

According to French grid operator RTE, the country imported 11.8 GW from Germany and Belgium yesterday, while demand is expected to peak today.

French Ecological Transition Minister Barbara Pompili has urged energy company EDF to work around the clock to repair the damages, cracks on reactor pipes, for a swift return of its nuclear power stations,

Energy market conditions in Europe are currently completely different to what they were in 2016-17, when France was forced to temporarily shut down nuclear power units over technical issues. At the time, the wholesale electricity price in Greece was 114 euros per MWh, while, at present, it is over 300 euros per MWh.

Climate change impacting energy output of sources, networks

There has been much debate of late on the ability of Greece’s grid to operate up to standard amid extreme conditions, the talk prompted by last month’s deadly flash floods in the country’s northern region Halkidiki, as well as the current heatwave throughout the country.

Rising air and water temperatures impact both conventional and nuclear energy production, Europe’s biggest energy source, in a number of ways. Water temperatures need to be at optimal levels for nuclear stations to function properly. Operations at nuclear energy facilities in France have needed to be interrupted this year, as well as in the past, as a result of unsuitable water temperatures.

High air temperatures impact, for various reasons, the output levels of gas and fuel-fired power stations, renewable energy sources, as well as nuclear energy facilities, while coal and biomass units are less affected.

Natural gas-fired power station production levels drop by 0.1 percent for every one-degree Celsius increase in air temperature. The production drop is greater for nuclear units, reaching 0.5 percent. A further one-percent production drop is caused by every 5-degree Celsius increase in water temperature.

Hydropower facilities are affected as a result of greater evaporation and lower water levels.

Solar energy systems also produce less amid extremely hot temperatures, the drop estimated at between 0.4 and 0.5 percent for every one degree Celsius increase in temperature, according to an older study.

Though alternative sources are brought into action to ensure energy sufficiency when certain electricity production units are under-performing, networks, also susceptible to heatwaves, do not have such flexibility.

Higher temperatures affect the production levels of transformers and cables,  overland and underground. Network yield losses increase by one percent for every three-degree Celsius rise in temperature. The increased threat of fires, as was experienced in the worst possible way in California last year, only makes matters worse.

Energy system adjustments are urgently needed in various parts of the world, including Greece, as grids were shaped under certain assumptions and factors that reflect past conditions, not more recent developments, namely global warming and climate change.

Over the past decade or so, certain countries, including France, have made energy system revisions and implemented these changes. However, the speed at which the climate has destabilized may require follow-up revisions.



All eyes on French energy system as Europe braces for colder weather

Europe’s energy sector enters a crucial period today and for the next few days as a result of the cold winter weather that has been forecast combined with maintenance and operational issues troubling France’s nuclear power facilities, which could lead to energy supply shortages.

Temperatures in Greece and other parts of Europe are forecast to drop by as much as 10 degrees Celsius this week, which will sharply increase energy demand for heating.

Weather conditions are not expected to be as extreme as they were last winter. Authorities have assured necessary measures have already been taken to a large degree.

Even so, the ongoing situation in France is worrisome. Throughout 2017, the country’s output at nuclear power stations has registered the lowest levels since the millennium. Nuclear power station capacity in France yesterday managed to climb to a level of 52 gigawatts.

As reported by Platts, the French power utility EDF has declared five units will resume production this week but, even so, was forced, once again, to reduce its output forecasts as a result of delayed returns to the grid of units undergoing maintenance work.

EDF’s nuclear power stations have generated electricity at an average level of 50 gigawatts this month, while, for the fourth quarter, output has fallen 14 gigawatts short of forecasts, a quantity equivalent to 28 LNG shipments.

Given the magnitude of France’s electricity production, as well as last year’s domino effect of energy shortages experienced by a series of European countries, stemming from problems at French nuclear power stations, all eyes are now on France.