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French nuclear output, power demand reduce gap to year earlier

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French nuclear output, power demand reduce gap to year earlier

Highlights

Nuclear averaged 31 GW Aug to date, 6 GW below Aug 2019

Demand averaged 42 GW, just 0.5 GW below Aug 2019

Aug to date spot average hits Eur34/MWh, supply cut outweighs demand

London — French nuclear generation reduced its year-on-year deficit to 6 GW in early August after July averaged 9 GW lower on the year, with weekly reactor output rising to 31 GW in the week ending Aug. 9 from 26 GW early July, grid data shows.

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However, with demand now close to normal, the still significant reduction in supply lifted spot prices, which are currently averaging above those in August 2019.

Demand averaged 41.7 GW so far this month, just 500 MW below the August 2019 average with August generally the month with the lowest demand due to the holidays.

The swing in the supply-demand balance had already boosted spot power prices in July.

Compared with the July average, early August was only little changed, with nuclear down 9 GW and demand some 2 GW lower.

However, compared with April, when the coronavirus lockdown pushed demand almost 10 GW lower, while nuclear averaged only 7 GW lower on the year, this results in a swing of 10 GW, offsetting all other forms of power generation in France.

That swing alongside a price recovery for CO2 and gas prices resulted in an Aug. 1-11 spot power average above Eur34/MWh compared to a Eur33.39/MWh spot average in August 2019.

French spot power plunged 42% on the year to average Eur23.70/MWh in the first six months, but rebounded above Eur33/MWh in July, reducing the year-on-year fall to 11%, Epex Spot data show.

Heat boosts demand, little impact yet on supply

Nuclear output hit a record low daily average of 22 GW on July 5 (Sunday) following closure of Fessenheim 2 and peaked just below 34 GW July 24 as some reactors returned from maintenance.

Some unplanned outages (Chinon, Cruas, Bugey) kept the weekly average at 31 GW for the past two weeks, but especially Sunday output was no longer ramping down significantly with the first two Sundays in August averaging above 30 GW.

"French nuclear output has never dropped below 30 GW on a daily basis in Week 32, adding strong upside risks to our view of 28 GW average for the month." S&P Global Platts Analytics said Aug. 7.

The 1.3-GW Nogent-2 reactor restarted Aug. 5 following a six-month overhaul with the 1.5-GW Chooz-1 set to follow Aug. 15, operator EDF said.

In April, both outages were delayed by two months into October due to restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which have eased since and EDF on July 2 lifting its 2020 nuclear target by up to 8% to a range of 315-325 TWh.

High temperatures, which spiked above 40 degrees Celsius in the South of France have supported demand, but so far had little impact on supply, with only the 1.3-GW Golfech-2 unit suffering a brief outage due to river temperatures affecting cooling water.

EDF indicated Aug. 9 that current temperature forecasts would not lead to restrictions for the next seven days at the plant on the river Garonne halfway between Toulouse and Bordeaux.

However, continued dry weather could lead to restrictions at reactors cooled by rivers due to very low water levels in many French rivers.

Meanwhile, French hydro and wind output have trended lower over recent weeks with slight gains for solar not enough to offset a shrinking net export position.

France at times even turned net importer on its Northern borders, mainly Great Britain, Belgium and Germany.

France is traditionally Europe's largest exporter of electricity mainly due to a high summer oversupply.

FRENCH WEEKLY POWER GENERATION (average GW)

Aug. 3-9
July 27-Aug.2
change (GW)
July 20-26
July 13-19
June 29-July 5
Demand
41.7
44.2
-2.5
44.3
42.7
43.1
Nuclear
31.1
30.9
0.2
32.2
31.6
26.1
Hydro
5.6
5.4
0.2
5.5
6.0
7.5
Wind
1.7
2.7
-1.0
2.5
1.7
4.4
Gas
2.9
3.3
-0.4
3.3
3.7
3.0
Solar
2.3
2.2
0.1
2.2
2.1
2.0
Net exports
-0.2
-1.7
1.5
-2.6
-3.2
-0.4

Source: RTE