French power consumption exceeds 100 GW
Early yesterday evening, France posted a new consumption record, crossing the 100 gigawatt threshold for the first time in history. The previous record for peak consumption was set in December 2010 at around 97 gigawatts.
The current cold spell in Europe continues to take its toll on the European grid, though no major power outages have yet occurred. But perhaps the strangest aspect of current events is that the German grid seems to be performing quite well, whereas France, Switzerland, and Italy are having to take the greatest action. Eleven months ago, when Germany shut down 40 percent of its nuclear power capacity, some experts warned of blackouts in the winter, but it turns out that the German grid is one of the most stable in the region.
Last night at around 7 PM, French power consumption reached an all-time high of 100.5 gigawatts of consumption, considerably surpassing the previous record of 96.7 gigawatts set on December 15, 2010. That level is also a full 25 percent greater than the power demand in Germany, which usually comes in in the lower 80s – even though there are some 80 million Germans, compared to only around 65 million French. According to grid operator RTE, France gets around 30 percent of its heat from electric heaters because the country has so much nuclear power. During extreme weather, however, the burden on the grid increases greatly.
As Renewables International recently reported, Germany is now exporting even more power to France during these hours; indeed, Germany has been a net exporter to France in recent years, as official French figures show (see the chart on page 49 of this PDF). France mainly is a net exporter of power to Italy and Switzerland, and those two countries are now also feeling the crunch as France struggles to meet its own domestic power demand.
Yesterday, Bloomberg reported that Italy is ramping up oil-fired power plants to compensate for the shortfall in power from France and lower natural gas deliveries from Russia, but its emergency reserves have not yet had to be tapped.
And on Sunday, the head of Swissgrid told the press that the cold spell could cause a blackout in Switzerland and called for Switzerland's grid, which he claimed is overloaded two months each year, to be expanded over the next few years. But experts say that the warnings were exaggerated and that he merely wants to make sure that no one accuses him of not warning everyone in case a blackout does occur. (Craig Morris)