23.01.2013
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Grid integration

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.

 - France is the largest power exporter in Western Europe, with a positive balance with  every one of its neighbors except Germany.
France is the largest power exporter in Western Europe, with a positive balance with every one of its neighbors except Germany.
RTE

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.

 - The figures in this map are for 2011 and are therefore not completely up-to-date, but they show that the Germans report a net import of electricity with France, whereas the French also consistently claim to be net importers of power from Germany. Both cannot be true, but Renewables International has not yet been able to resolve the apparent contradiction.
The figures in this map are for 2011 and are therefore not completely up-to-date, but they show that the Germans report a net import of electricity with France, whereas the French also consistently claim to be net importers of power from Germany. Both cannot be true, but Renewables International has not yet been able to resolve the apparent contradiction.
Sunmedia

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)

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4 Comments on "France net power exporter except to Germany "

  1. Dennis Grier - 17.08.2013, 17:59 Uhr (Report comment)

    I suppose that one answer to the reason that these flows take place at all could be that when the wind blows and the sun shines Germany exports ins unusable excess of subsidized energy at a knockdown price to France , who then sells it at a profit to the UK who thus reduces its CO2 footprint. The good side of all this commerce is that the energy is used and less coal is burned.

  2. Photomofo - 26.01.2013, 04:13 Uhr (Report comment)

    I should clarify my poor explanation some. It's not so much unscheduled flow that causes clocks to run fast or slow - it's regulating deviation on a network wide basis. Yes we do run a time error correction to fix the deviation. And to follow up... I've asks some experts. So far as I can tell inadvertent flow (Kirchoffs law plus poor unscheduled operation) isn't tracked by tags. We measure the flow with instruments but the payback accounting is done behind the scenes. The smallish volumes are unlikely to be reported.
    Anybody know where I can get a copy of the UBS report on Unsubsidized Solar?

  3. Photomofo - 24.01.2013, 04:29 Uhr (Report comment)

    The term we use to describe commercially contracted electricity that transits through but doesn't sink inside your zone is a wheelthrough. We don't track it specifically because it's not a reliability concern but you should be able to sort though the tags and figure out how much wheelthrough there is.
    There is also what's called inadvertent flow - Kirchoff's Laws as Bernard says. You keep an accounting of inadvertent by comparing your contracted flow to your telemetered flow. I'm not sure if inadvertent flow is paid back via a contract. One of the things that unscheduled flow does is it makes clocks run slow or fast. Over time you'll get a "time-error" of a few seconds. To correct for this you run in time-error correction mode. I'm not sure if there's a commercial contract tracking that.

  4. chabot - 23.01.2013, 13:51 Uhr (Report comment)

    At: http://www.audeladeslignes.com/echanges-contractuels-physiques-electricite-europe-difference-12943 , there is a detailed explanation by RTE of the differences between the contractual exchanges (values given in January 2013 RTE slides), based mainly on kWh price differences between the two countries and the physical exchanges at frontiers which are set by Kirchoff laws on the European electricity grid. At the national level, net contractual and physical balances are the same, but with a specific country (e.g. Germany), the two can differ.
    For information, the final RTE analysis on 2011 data is downloadable at: http://www.rte-france.com/uploads/Mediatheque_docs/vie_systeme/annuelles/Bilan_electrique/RTE_bilan_electrique_2011.pdf. The contractual exchanges with Germany were +10.8 TWh export and - 8.4 TWh imports, leading to a net 2011contractual export from France to Germany of +2.4 TWh in 2011.

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