France net power exporter except to Germany
Yesterday, French grid operator RTE released a slideshow, revealing that the country's power consumption continues to grow – and that France remains the largest power exporter in Europe, though it continues to be a net importer to Germany.
Perhaps to celebrate 50 years of Franco-German friendship, French grid operator Réseau de transport d'électricité (RTE) released preliminary figures in a slideshow on the country's grid situation yesterday – with Germany being the only country with which France is a net importer. The official report is generally published in the summer, and in recent years the Activity Report has consistently shown France to be a net power importer vis-à-vis Germany (Renewables International cited one such map here).
As the new map for 2012 reveals, France imported 8.7 terawatt-hours from Germany last year, equivalent to roughly 1.5 percent of the country's power consumption. With all of its other neighbors, France has a positive balance, with Italy, Switzerland, and Belgium being especially big importers of French electricity. Essentially, those countries have made a strategic decision to let France host the nuclear plants rather than building them at home.
Last year, France invested (see slide 19) 1.36 billion euros in its grid above the distribution level; below 20 kV, local communities are technically in charge of the distribution grid, which ERDF (not RTE) handles. The figure has skyrocketed since 2004 and will practically have tripled within the past decade, reaching 1.44 billion euros this year – already equivalent to the lower end of what Germany (which has greater power consumption) is estimated to need to invest in its grid for the Energiewende.
An historic view also reveals that French power consumption continues to increase dramatically, whereas power consumption in Germany has been basically flat in recent decades. Slide 7 shows that the gap between baseload and peak power continues to widen from roughly 52 gigawatts in 2003 (around 30 gigawatts to more than 80 gigawatts) to 71.5 gigawatts in 2012, when peak demand is exceeded 100 gigawatts in the country for the first time. In contrast, German power consumption – with a population roughly 30 percent greater – still generally peaks below 80 gigawatts and is generally in the 60s.
One odd aspect in the reporting of power imports and exports is that Germany consistently reports net power imports vis-à-vis France. In other words, the French claim to be net importers of power from Germany, but simultaneously the Germans claim to be net importers from France. According to German grid expert Bruno Burger, who produces this highly recommended slideshow of the German power grid, Germany is actually a transit country for power that France sells to Switzerland and Italy. In all likelihood, the French are therefore counting actual sales, whereas the Germans are counting power flows irrespective of who ends up buying the electricity.
But this discrepancy has not been resolved to our satisfaction, so if you can help us resolve the discrepancy between French and German reports of power trading, please use the comment box below. The matter is also interesting in terms of Germany's eastern neighbors, which also claim that Germany is using them (especially Poland and the Czech Republic) as transit routes for electricity without compensation. The question is therefore indeed whether such power flows are anything unusual – and whether there truly is no compensation. (Craig Morris)