how France overcame the first peak

It is one of the vagaries of winter. Electricity spikes are a common occurrence when temperatures drop and energy requirements increase for heating. Electric transport network (RTE) thus announced on Thursday December 15 that it had experienced a first situation of peak consumption on Monday December 12 around 6:15 p.m.

But the power supply manager in France has several tools to deal with this winter phenomenon.

► What is an electricity spike?

When temperatures drop and a large number of households use the electricity grid at the same time, for heating and to operate their household appliances, the country experiences peaks in consumption. “Often, these peaks are recorded in the evening, between 6 and 10 p.m., because all the French go home”, specifies the RTE. The manager can predict its peaks based on temperatures, foreseeable household needs and electricity production.

If it is unable to meet this increase in demand, RTE can implement several emergency measures, signaled by Ecowatt alerts. Initially, it can carry out power cuts in large industrial groups (orange alert). If the red alert is triggered, there will be “load shedding”warns Jean-Paul Roubin, executive director customers and operation of the electrical system of RTE.

In a context of rising energy prices, this risk of power cuts was recently mentioned by the executive. For the time being, no load shedding has been recorded, despite very low temperatures, with an average of 0.3°C in France last Sunday and Monday.

► Why is there no power cut despite this increased consumption?

To cope with the peak in consumption on Monday January 12, RTE benefited from more electricity imports than expected. The network thus indicated that it had asked its Belgian and Italian counterparts on Monday morning to draw on their electricity production.

In addition, three additional nuclear reactors were commissioned on Friday 9 December. There are now 40 reactors in operation out of the 56 in France. In total, the nuclear fleet produced 41 GW of electricity during the peak, providing for half of the needs at the time (82 GW).

RTE also benefited from the exceptional commissioning of its two coal-fired power plants, in Saint-Avold (Moselle) and Cordemais (Loire-Atlantique). These two thermal power stations have been restarted by the government to secure the country’s electricity supply during the winter months.

► Can we expect other peaks this winter?

During halftime of the France-Morocco semi-final on Wednesday December 14, the country has already experienced a new peak in consumption.

But, apart from this exceptional quarter of an hour, “there is no risk” peak until the end of the year, assures Jean-Paul Roubin. “Temperatures are getting warmer and economic activity will decrease with the start of the holidays, consumption will drop”he says.

The risks of an orange or red flag are especially valid for the month of January. RTE fears January will be colder than December, and therefore potential “cold snaps” which will again increase demand.


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