France faces high risk of power grid strain in months ahead

The French electricity grid operator warned on Friday of a "high risk" of network strain due to ongoing nuclear power plant outages, which could see businesses and households forced to curb usage to avoid outright power cuts.

France faces high risk of power grid strain in months ahead
A French electricity transmission system operator RTE (Reseau de Transport d'Electricity) employee works on the renovation of very high voltage lines around Areches-Beaufort (Photo by JEFF PACHOUD / AFP)

In a winter outlook update, RTE said it expects France’s network of nuclear plants will be operating at just 65 percent of capacity at the beginning of next year, producing around 40 gigawatts.

That forecast is well below the 48 gigawatts the state-owned electricity group EDF says will be available on January 1, when demand usually soars as winter settles in.

Around 25 of the 56 reactors operated by EDF across France are shut down for maintenance or to evaluate and repair tiny cracks that have been discovered in cooling pipes.

READ MORE: ‘Ecowatt’: How you should use France’s new energy forecasting website?

The company has mobilised more than 600 people, including around 100 specialised welders and other workers brought in from the United States and Canada, but it has acknowledged delays in finishing the work.

Last week, EDF said it would have 46 reactors online in January.

RTE has rolled out an Ecowatt application and website to alert when grid usage is too high, requiring it to ask clients to cut consumption or risk voltage drops (“brownouts”) and targeted electricity cuts.

Much will depend on the weather and “a possible cold wave, even a moderate one,” RTE said.

The government is already urging people to show “restraint” with electricity use, including advertisements showing tips such as turning down thermostats, taking shorter showers and running appliances at night.

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French MPs back €230m aid for households that use wood-burners for heating

Householders in France who heat their homes with wood-burners will soon be in line for financial help with the cost of keeping warm this winter.

French MPs back €230m aid for households that use wood-burners for heating

During a reading of the draft budget, the National Assembly adopted a €230 million aid package for households that use logs or wood pellets for heating.

The aid package – which had support across the Assembly, and the backing of the government – is modelled on an already existing policy to help the owners of properties that use oil-fired heating systems.

From December 22nd, households heating with wood will be able to apply for a “wood energy voucher” on the cheque energie website. Aid is means-tested, but those eligible will be able to claim between €50 to €200 to help with the cost of heating their homes.

The amendment was passed with 218 votes in favour and just one against.

According to the Agence de la transition écologique (Ademe), wood is the main source of heating for more than three million people in France. 

The price of wood-pellets used in household burners has doubled since the beginning of 2021, leaving many households struggling with the cost of fuel. 

Minister of Public Accounts Gabriel Attal also told MPs that the government was working on ways to reduce ‘profiteering’ from the rising cost of firewood, and said that officials would “not hesitate to crack down” on any cases of fraud.

READ ALSO What are the rules on fires and log-burners in France?