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Power threat as France struggles with big chill

Matthew Warren · 2 Feb 2012, 14:19

Published: 02 Feb 2012 14:19 GMT+01:00

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A combination of cold weather, snow and ice means large parts of France are still on high alert, with warnings of power cuts in some regions of the country.

National weather forecaster Météo France has placed 28 French departments on "orange alert," the second highest of the warnings it gives.

An orange alert warns of "dangerous" conditions with special attention needed on roads.

The Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comté regions in the east were all badly affected on Thursday  as were the central Corrèze, Creuse and Cantal areas.

Even the Mediterranean port town of Marseille was affected, with palm trees covered in snow. Heavy goods vehicles were held back on motorways into the town causing traffic delays.

Météo France blamed the cold snap on a Siberian wind which made temperatures feel much colder than they really are.

Temperatures across the country were unlikely to get above between -3 and -6 degrees on Thursday, with the wind chill making the air feel much colder.

Newspaper France Soir reported that several regions were also at risk of losing electricity due to excessive demand. These included the north-west region of Brittany and the southern Alpes-Maritimes, Var and Monaco.

Residents of those areas were being asked to limit their electricity consumption between 6pm and 8pm. 

The national electricity grid operator RTE (Réseau du Transport Electrique) predicted that national electricity consumption would reach a peak of 95,500 megawatts at 7pm on Thursday evening. This would take it close to the highest ever consumption figure of 96,710 megawatts on December 15th 2010.

Temperatures are expected to fall even lower over the next few days, with -10 degrees expected in central France and around Paris.


Matthew Warren (news.france@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

2012-02-05 14:58:26 by El_Zoido
@roaringchicken83: If you believe that anti-nuclear scientists did hinder the developement of thoriusm reactors, then you are purposly misleading yourself ;) The nuclear-lobby and the current power system are in a incredibly dominant position all around the world. They are the once who block everything...renewables, conservation & energy efficency measures. Basicly any alternative to the existing structures is being confronted by misinformation, political lobbying and bought scientific cheerleaders that present shocking studies like "PV-Solar has a higher mortility rate than nuclear power"... Why I am not a fan of thorium? It's not available yet and it's a mirage so far (like fusion). It is far to compatible / dependend of the current energy system to be implemented fast. You still got mining, transportation, refining and centralized production. All the social-political benefits of distributed generation from renewables are missing. Leave it to the current energy producers and we will see no change in 20, 30, 40 or 60 years. And then it will be incredible expensive for us (citizens) and very profitable for them.
2012-02-02 22:38:19 by El_Zoido
At peak-load time, decentralized solar power produced about 8.300 MW of electricity in Germany. That actually lowered the demand for centralized conventional power stations between 9 AM and 5 PM. Since some of the trouble was due to one Coal powerstation not having enough coal (problems with the coal supply), it's a testament to the virtues of the outdated centralized fossil/nuclear energy system... Imagine there would be the need for an unplanned maintainance at a nuclear reactor with 1 GW of output during these conditions? Not a very pleasant idea, if you depend on electricity for heating.
2012-02-02 20:54:14 by fithsk
It's not really EDF's fault. The capacity to produce is there. It's a question of the grid being insufficient for carrying enough power in Bretagne and Provence-Côte d'Azur, both regions in a 'cul-de-sac', grid-wise. In Bretagne, the population has opposed construction of these nasty power plants so they depend entirely on electricity transported from other regions. They've sort of asked for trouble. In Provence-Riviera, environmentalists have opposed the construction of sufficient high-voltage cable capacity, so that network is running to the limit of its capacity with no alternative for importing electricity from Italy for example. The Alps limit the possible paths for electricity. The only thing one can blame EDF is their many commercials to make people switch to electric heating. Not fantastic if parts of the grid can't support electric heating.
2012-02-02 16:05:39 by Hans BOSTRÖM
What indictment for the world's largest electricity company! It is quite extraordinary that EDF has been unable to foresee the surge in demand, which could be met by diesel and gas turbine power plants, like in most other cold countries. After all, this cold spell has been predicted for several days if not more than a week. One cannot help thinking that the power shortage is the price paid by consumers to maintain EDF's extraordinary dominance, leading to disregard for its customers. It's a case where French high politics is not working in favour of its citizens.
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