France Needs New Power Plants, Grid Warns Again
Author: Marguerita Choy
No new large power plants have been built since 1993 in France, despite rising consumption. France is Europe's top power producer and exporter due to a surplus in capacity, thanks to its 58 nuclear reactors.
Demand last year grew 2.2 percent to 477.2 terawatt hours, said the grid in its annual review.
RTE released a study in 2003 that showed a growing risk of blackouts after 2008 as there could be insufficient production capacity, especially during the peak winter heating season.
"The results for the growth in electricity consumption in France only reinforces this study," RTE's head Andre Merlin said on presenting France's annual electricity statistics.
The report said that France needed 1,000 megawatts (MW) of new power capacity a year after 2008 to meet peak demand.
It also said growing consumption will increase the need to boost demand for baseload in France by 2017/2018.
Merlin said this was not as big a concern as France has already launched plans to bring on a new European pressurised water reactor (EPR) by 2012 as 30 of its reactors due to retire after 2020.
RTE, 100-percent owned by state-owned EDF, is preparing a new study, which it will present to the government in the first half of this year.
"We are giving a signal that after 2008 there will be problems if there is no new means of production. Electricite de France [EDF.UL] has classic (coal and fuel oil-fired) power plants which it can bring back into service," Merlin said.
The growth rate in French power production was steady last year, rising 1.1 percent last year, compared with 1.2 percent in the previous year.
France produced 546.6 TWh of electricity in 2004, with output from nuclear rising 1.7 percent to 426.8 TWh, hydro-power up 0.4 percent to 64.5 TWh, and coal and oil-fired production down 2.1 percent to 55.3 TWh. Wind generation produced 0.5 TWh.
Last year's demand growth was marked by a rise in large industrial consumers' usage, which grew by 1.9 percent from 2003, while small and medium consumers bought 2.7 percent more power.
RTE said 0.4 percent of the consumption growth was due to a four public holidays in 2004 falling on weekends.
When corrected for seasonality, French power consumption last year rose 1.7 percent from 2003.