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Heatwave triggers French power demand spike, June average flat on year

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London — French power demand spiked Thursday close to record summer highs of 59.5 GW as temperatures soared, grid operator RTE said.

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Temperatures are forecast to ease next week with RTE's seven-day demand forecast pegging peak demand at 57 GW next Tuesday.

"With the heatwave, air conditioning increases consumption with 59.46 GW reached 12:40 [local time Thursday], close to the historic high for summer," RTE said in a tweet.

Thursday's daily demand of 1.22 TWh (50.8 GW hourly average) was the highest since a cold spell in early May and exceeded last year's summer peak of 1.20 TWh set in July, RTE data showed.

Daily demand of 44.7 GW through June to date, however, is little changed on the year.

Demand for the January to June period trailed H1 2018 by around 0.8%, the data showed.

Cooling demand during the summer adds on average 0.5 GW for each degree Celsius above the norm, according to RTE.

The heatwave has broken temperature records dating back to the 2003 August heatwave with 44.3 C the latest peak temperature recorded Friday in Carpentras, according to Meteo France.

There has been little strain on generation to date, with nuclear availability healthy and June output averaging around 40 GW, hydro levels slowly improving and spare gas capacity on hand.

SOLAR CAPS GAS-FOR-POWER

This was reflected in the spot market, with daily prices averaging in the lower Eur30s per MWh.

The key risks during an extended heatwave are nuclear output restrictions for river-based reactors once river temperatures reach a critical level, more likely to occur towards the end of the summer when river levels are generally lower following a dry summer.

Out of France's 58 reactors with 63 GW capacity, 40 units are river-cooled. Last summer, four plants were affected by cooling water restrictions often limited to overnight or the weekend.

French power prices are bearish with baseload contracts for July and August trading Friday around Eur33/MWh, down from above Eur40/MWh in early May and below last year's average above Eur50/MWh, EEX exchange data showed.

-- Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Loades-Carter, newsdesk@spglobal.com