France may restart coal-fired power station to avoid energy shortage this winter

The French government is considering reopening a coal-fired power plant in the north east of the country to avoid energy shortages this winter.

France may restart coal-fired power station to avoid energy shortage this winter
An aerial view shows the Emile Huchet - GazelEnergie coal power plant, on February 14, 2022 in Carling, eastern France. (Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN / AFP)

France’s Ministry of Energy said in a statement on Sunday that the coal-fired power plant in Saint-Avold, Moselle, may be put into use this winter “as a precautionary measure, given the Ukrainian situation” and tensions on the energy market.

Though the plant was closed on March 31st, the decision to potentially restart it does not come as a total surprise. The government had not ruled out the possibility of re-opening the plant as a way of securing the country’s supply of electricity in light of the war in Ukraine and setbacks in the nuclear sector.

Even though President Emmanuel Macron had promised to close all coal-fired power plants in France by 2022, the ministry reiterated that restarting the plant would still be “part of the closure plan,” assuring the public that President Emmanuel Macron’s commitment to close all coal-fired power plants in France “remains unchanged.”

The ministry added that should the plant be reopened, electricity produced by coal would remain below 1 percent of that used across France, and that no Russian coal would be used.

The statement comes as leaders from France’s top three energy providers issued a joint statement urging the public to reduce their energy consumption this summer in order to ensure adequate stocks for the winter. 

READ MORE: French energy firms urge ‘immediate’ cut in consumption to avoid shortages this winter

As of late May nearly half of France’s nuclear reactors were offline, while international demand in the oil market has increased. However, French government officials have said there is “no risk of shortage in the short term,” though experts warn of potential “spot shortages,” as in many cases it is not possible to substitute one type of oil for another. 

Other European countries, like Germany, have already decided to reopen their coal-fired plants in order to combat possible energy shortages this winter.

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More evacuated as forest fire reignites in southern France

A forest fire in France's southern Aveyron region has reignited, sparking the evacuation of 1,000 more people and burning a total of 1,260 hectares, local authorities said Sunday.

More evacuated as forest fire reignites in southern France

France has been buffeted this summer by a historic drought as well as a series of heatwaves and several forest fires, notably in the southwest.

READ ALSO: IN PICTURES: French drought intensifies as River Loire dries up

The Aveyron fire, which has been raging since Monday, appeared to be under control and dying out on Saturday afternoon when it suddenly reignited in a “virulent” manner, gobbling up 500 more hectares (1,235 acres), the prefecture said.

At least 1,000 people were evacuated from the village of Mostuejols near the city of Millau and six nearby hamlets, it said.

Some 3,000 people had been evacuated because of the fire, but were allowed back when it appeared under control. No casualties have been reported so far from the blaze.

A local man was under investigation for accidentally starting the fire when a metal part of his trailer touched the road, sending off sparks that ignited the dried vegetation.

In eastern France, police said on Saturday they were banning entry to most forests in the Bas-Rhin region near the German border, in order to limit the risk of fires igniting.

Austrian firefighters help to extinguish a fire in a forest of South Gironde

Austrian firefighters help to extinguish a fire in a forest in South Gironde, near Belin-Beliet on August 13, 2022. (Photo by Thibaud MORITZ / AFP)

In the southwestern Gironde region around Bordeaux, another fire which flared on Tuesday was under control after rain fell overnight, a senior official said.

READ ALSO: Thunderstorms expected around contained French wildfire

The situation “considerably improved during the night,” Arnaud Mendousse, of Gironde fire and rescue, said.

He said there had been between 10 and 30 mm of rain in the region but on “terrain that is extremely dry”.

“We know that this offers a respite but does not signify an end to the fight. We know that if it does not rain in the next 48 to 72 hours, the risk will increase considerably.”

Mendousse said the humidity level has gone up and the temperature was relatively low at around 25 degrees Celsius, (77 Fahrenheit) adding: “The fire is not completely out and the soil remains extremely hot”.

EU members including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania have pledged reinforcements totalling 361 firefighters to join the roughly 1,100 French ones on the ground, along with several water-bombing planes from the European Union fleet.