Dhe hot weather hitting Europe this week is reducing the output of France’s nuclear power plants. This increases the probability of further increases in electricity prices – and Europe is already in the middle of the worst energy crisis in decades.
Warm temperatures in the Garonne River mean the Golfech nuclear power plant in the south of the country will deliver just 300 megawatts on Thursday and Friday instead of the usual 1,310 megawatts, Électricité de France SA (EDF) said on Wednesday. Temperatures in France and the Iberian Peninsula will be well above average over the next five days, and will rise even further next week, according to forecaster Maxar.
The reduction creates additional hardship for the EDF, whose 56 reactors – vital to Europe’s electricity supply – are currently operating at about half their capacity due to maintenance and checks. The utility estimates that this year’s electricity production will be the lowest in more than 30 years. For neighboring countries, this may mean that alternatives must be found if the lights are to stay on.
The heat wave will also increase the need for air conditioning in tens of millions of homes, offices and factories. This, in turn, drives up the demand for electricity and harbors the risk of further loading the system.
A further complication is that in Germany, Europe’s largest producer of electricity from wind power, there is hardly any wind at the moment. Wind power generation was below 3 gigawatts as of Tuesday morning, compared with a record nearly 50 gigawatts in February.
France’s nuclear power increasingly expensive
The heat, the lack of wind and the low level of nuclear energy production in France are driving up already high prices. French power rose Tuesday to the highest level since April 3.
According to Maxar, temperatures in Paris are expected to hit 35 degrees on Wednesday and rise to as high as 38 degrees next week. In Madrid it will probably be 41.5 degrees hot on Thursday.
Rules in France require EDF to reduce or stop nuclear power generation when river temperatures reach certain maximum levels. This is to ensure that the water used to cool the facilities does not harm the environment when it is re-injected.