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EDF's new CEO confirms 2023 French nuclear output target despite further delays


2023 expected in 300-330 TWh range

2022 output fell to lowest since 1988

Eur3.6 bil net loss due to reactor repairs

  • Author
  • Andreas Franke
  • Editor
  • James Leech
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Energy Transition Natural Gas

French utility EDF's new CEO, Luc Remont, has confirmed a nuclear output target of 300 TWh to 330 TWh this year after output plunged 23% in 2022 to 279 TWh.

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The 82 TWh deficit, largely due to stress corrosion outages at a dozen reactors, forced the utility to buy back lost volumes at record high prices in the market, prompting a Eur3.6 billion financial net loss for the year, annual results data showed Feb. 17.

"The 2022 results were significantly affected by the decline in our electricity output, and also by exceptional regulatory measures introduced in France in difficult market conditions," Remont said.

Remont added that 2022 also confirmed the new impetus for nuclear in France as well as accelerated expansion for renewable energies.

French power prices meanwhile have shed most of their extreme risk premiums that saw winter contracts trade above Eur1,000/MWh for much of autumn 2022 as gas prices eased, while EDF managed to return reactors.

French reactor availability briefly reached 46 out of 56 reactors on Feb. 9, but is set to fall to 41 by Feb. 18 with annual maintenance at six reactors underway, while some long-term outages have been extended into spring.

Analysts at S&P Global Commodity Insights forecast 2023 output at 318 TWh, rising to 340 TWh in 2024.

Stress corrosion

The new CEO aims to return the company back to profitability with 2023 focus on a "gradual exit from the crisis of stress corrosion" after 2022 output was the lowest since 1988.

The issue mainly impacts EDF's 16 more modern reactors (four N4 units with 1.5 GW capacity each and twelve P4 reactors with 1.3 GW)

EDF in January restarted the Civaux-1 reactor, where the issue was first detected in 2021 and has completed repairs on a few others units gradually returning.

The company referred to its Dec. 16 statement as the latest technical update on the repair program, but has delayed a number of scheduled returns since.

Focus in 2023 will be on checks and repairs at six units not yet treated for the issue (Belleville 1 and 2, Cattenom 2, Golfech 2, Nogent 1 and 2).

EDF also delayed the start of fuel-loading for its new Flamaville-3 reactor to Q1 2024. Analysts at S&P Global expects start of commercial operations only in Q1 2025.

Construction for the first new French reactor in a generation started in 2007. The reactor was planned to start in 2018 when President Emmanuel Macron took power in 2017.

France also plans to accelerate the development of six new EPR2 reactors with almost 10 GW capacity and a target date around 2035.

Green growth

EDF commissioned some 3.6 GW new renewables in 2022 including France's first offshore wind farm (480 MW offshore Saint Nazaire) and achieved first power from the world's largest solar power plant (2 GW Al Dhafrah in the UAE), it said.

Its wind and solar project pipeline grew by 12% to 85 GW gross including the 1.5-GW New York Bight offshore wind project.

EDF's net installed wind and solar capacity rose 10% to 13.2 GW by end-2022, it said.

Meanwhile, French hydro output fell 22% on the year to 32.4 TWh as French hydro fell to its lowest since 1976 amid drought conditions that started to eased in Q4.

In Great Britain, EDF increased 2022 nuclear production by 5% to 43.6 TWh.

French front-month power prices have fallen to a discount to UK month-ahead prices last assessed Feb. 16 at GBP137.55/MWh (Eur154.72/MWh), according to S&P Global pricing data.