Uncertainty over French power needs requires vigilance: grid firm RTE

PARIS (Reuters) - The ability of France to meet electricity needs this winter does not appear at risk for now but the uncertain demand outlook calls for vigilance, power grid operator RTE said on Friday.

The coronavirus crisis is making forecasts difficult and they will be updated in mid-November, it said.

Consumption returned to closer to normal levels from June onward due to the end of the confinement measures and the partial restart of company activity, but still remained about 3 to 4 percentage points lower compared with last year, RTE said.

“The drop in demand was in line with the framework used for the RTE forecast in June and supports the prospect of a similar decrease in the winter,” it said.

RTE did not modify its initial analysis of a 2 percent demand reduction over the winter months.

The evolution of consumption over the coming months will essentially depend on the evolution of the health and economic situation, RTE said.

“This is particularly the case for industrial and tertiary sectors, which can exceed 40 GW of power demand at their peak in the winter. Therefore a great deal of uncertainty remains,” the operator said.

On the supply side, reactor maintenance led to a slight upward reassessment of expected nuclear availability, especially in October through early 2021, the grid operator said.

Eleven major improvements were carried out, allowing for an increase of 6 to 7 GW to the margin in November-December, and around 3 GW in January, the operator said.

The historically low availability during the summer months resulted in an increased reliance on thermal as well as imports, especially during periods of low wind generation.

The available data shows a forecast improvement to nuclear availability over the coming weeks, the operator said.

Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Forrest Crellin; editing by Jason Neely and Elaine Hardcastle