Power cuts: why winter 2023-2024 is more risky

Would the situation go from bad to worse year after year? Already, at the start of winter 2020-2021, the Minister for Ecological Transition at the time, Barbara Pompili, had warned that cold spells could force producers to organize “very short power cuts” to regulate. But the risk had finally been avoided. While this year, energy experts are unanimous, “the risk is particularly high as it has never been”, reminds The Express Nicolas Goldberg, senior energy manager at Colombus consulting. In January and February, the coldest months of the year, the risks of targeted cuts are increased according to the network operator RTE. However, if this possibility cannot be ruled out, the winter most at risk will “probably” be that of 2023-2024, estimated Thursday evening the president of the Energy Regulatory Commission, Emmanuelle Wargon.

“We have a good chance that things will not go too badly for the winter of 2022-23 in the end. For 2023-2024, it’s still really very uncertain,” she said Thursday evening on BFM Businessacknowledging that this second tense winter would “probably” be the riskiest.

For his part, Nicolas Goldberg indicates that the winters could be complicated until 2025-2026, and that the next two will be at least similar to this one. “And it can last even longer,” he says. “All of this will depend on the availability of the nuclear fleet, our gas imports, the demand for electricity but also thermal renovations and the development of renewable energies”.

The first determining factor of energy security in France seems to be that of gas imports. “We have a delicate winter now and we probably also have a delicate or difficult winter in 2023-2024. This is also where we will do on gas imports, electricity imports, the continuation of the measures to “Community emergency, the beginning of the reflection on the organization of the market, this will play on winter 23-24”, she declared on BFM Business. Nicolas Goldberg does not say anything else. “Today, with a minimum of Russian gas, we have managed to fill our storage capacity 100%, but next year this may not be the case, warns the specialist. Especially if France has good gas import capacities, this is not the case for all European countries, Germany in the lead, which could affect the operation of gas-fired power plants”.

Another determining factor in the operation of the electricity network next year, just like this year: the availability of the nuclear fleet. “EDF’s nuclear production target this year is set at 275 terawatt-hours, which is extremely low. Next year it would be between 300 and 330 terawatt-hours, so potentially not that much above “, points out Nicolas Goldberg. This represents between 65% and 75% of installed nuclear capacity.

Many companies have already stopped producing, from the beginning of November, faced with an unsustainable increase in electricity prices. This is the case of the glass manufacturer Duralex, but also of Arc. “Next year, there will surely be a destruction of demand, due to the price effect”, analyzes Nicolas Goldberg. This could unfortunately relieve and secure the supply of individuals.

“But Duralex is only the tip of the iceberg. In 2023, we will start to see those who have covered themselves well in terms of their contracts or not. But even those may stick their tongues out at some point “.

In addition, the government presented a bill relating to the acceleration of the development of renewable energies, examined in the National Assembly since Monday, November 21. The text carried by the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher provides in particular for temporary adaptations of administrative procedures to simplify and accelerate the implementation of projects, the objective being to significantly shorten deployment times.

And the speed of their deployment could be a game-changer for France’s energy supply. “If we manage to accelerate on renewable energies and the thermal renovation of housing, the worst can be avoided”, concludes Nicolas Goldberg.

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