Science

Why the risk of a power outage this winter is really over

Emmanuel Macron has been assuring him since the beginning of December 2022: “We will hold out this winter.” No, there will be no blackout this winter, the president of the republic promised, while the state of the nuclear fleet and electricity prices create this risk on French territory, and that the government has unveiled a plan to protect against it. The good news is, the current data seems to prove him right.

“Most of the risks are behind us,” said Xavier Pechachik, chairman of the board of RTE, who manages French high-voltage lines, this Wednesday. Realize that a cut is unlikely now due to the fall in electricity consumption in France that has begun in recent weeks. By mid-December, this figure had reached 10%.

Consumption is still falling

Last week, electricity consumption was 7.5% lower compared to the previous five-year average over the same period, according to RTE. This drop is close to 8% over the last four weeks. The network manager recalls that his calculations suggest that this drop is not due to the effects of a milder winter, but to a change in household and business practices.

The French administration has also made efforts, also related to sobriety promises to combat global warming. On a “representative sample” of more than 8,500 buildings in the state’s building stock, the ministry is advancing an 11.3% reduction in gross electricity consumption between November 2021 and November 2022, the Department of Health said.

Target 2023 and beyond

How about shouting for victory while Russian state-run media portrays in their propaganda videos the fantasy of a Europe forced to be lit by candles this winter and next? “There are some risks if we experience a significant and prolonged cold snap, because the nuclear fleet starts to shrink,” added Xavier Pechaczyk, however. Zero risk does not exist, but we are getting closer.

But already now all eyes are on the winter of 2023-2024, and more broadly on the energy sovereignty of France, while the shutdown of a significant part of the French nuclear fleet this autumn and the drought have particularly hampered nuclear and hydraulic production and French autonomy. The Senate, which had a majority vote in favor of resurrecting nuclear power, expanded the scope of a bill in first reading aimed at simplifying administrative procedures to facilitate the construction of new reactors near existing nuclear facilities.

Specifically, if the text is adopted, the plots will be exempt from building permits. The right of expropriation will be relaxed. Work on buildings not intended to receive radioactive substances may begin before the closing of the public inquiry. The Senate will vote on the entire text in a ceremonial vote next Tuesday. The bill will then be submitted to the National Assembly.

2023 will be a decisive year for France’s energy future, which will have to legislate the share allocated to each energy, and nuclear in particular, in order to move away from fossil fuels and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. France is the “first low-carbon industrial nation”, the government supports the construction of six new generation EPR reactors – EPR2 – with an option for eight others, while developing renewable energy sources (solar, wind, etc.)

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