The French government has recently made the decision to allow power generating companies to increase their use of coal in order to prevent potential power shortages during the upcoming winter months. This move has been prompted by concerns over the output of Electricite de France (EDF), the utility major that supplies over half of France’s electricity, which is expected to remain below historical levels due to complications with its fleet of nuclear reactors affected by stress corrosion.
The French Ecological Transition Ministry acknowledged that while there is currently lower tension on the power system compared to the same period last year, it is necessary to take all measures to ensure the security of energy supply for the French people, especially considering the possibility that the conflict in Ukraine may not be resolved by winter or that the winter itself may be particularly harsh.
In conjunction with allowing increased coal usage, the French government has also imposed stricter requirements on the operation of the country’s two remaining coal-fired power plants. Producers will only be permitted to operate for up to 1,800 hours during the coming winter, equivalent to approximately 11 weeks, down from 2,500 hours last winter. Additionally, coal-powered plants will face higher costs per ton of carbon dioxide released under a government decree.
The decision to expand the use of fossil fuels is a result of the challenges France has faced in maintaining its energy supply. Last winter, power prices in the EU soared after the bloc decided to abandon Russian energy as part of its sanctions policy. As a country that was once a power exporter to the EU, France had to heavily rely on electricity imports from neighboring countries. Moreover, many of its nuclear power plants, which historically accounted for 70% of the country’s electricity output, were offline for maintenance.
The French government’s strategy to address the potential energy shortage reflects the country’s need to maintain a reliable power supply while also acknowledging the importance of transitioning to more sustainable energy sources. By tightening regulations and imposing higher costs on coal-powered plants, the government aims to limit their usage and incentivize the development of cleaner alternatives.
Ensuring a secure and stable energy supply is crucial for France’s economy and its citizens’ daily lives. This decision serves as a temporary measure to bridge the gap between the current challenges faced by nuclear energy and the long-term goals of transitioning to renewable and cleaner sources of power.