Power Grid

20 Jul 2021

French Power Exports Set for Record July on Strong Nuclear, Weak Demand

20 Jul 2021  by   

French power exports are set for a record July with net flows averaging 9.6 GW so far, with nuclear reactor output up sharply year on year while domestic demand has remained weak, system data showed July 19.

Flows to Britain have registered the biggest gains, up almost 3 GW year on year, swinging from net imports last July to net exports, the data showed.

Net exports peaked at 14 GW July 14, a national holiday in France, but frequently exceeded 10 GW. That compared with average net exports of 1.8 GW in July 2020 and 7.6 GW in 2019.

French nuclear averaged 37.1 GW July 1-18, up 23% from last year's record low for July. Output remains below 2019 after closure of the Fessenheim reactors.

On a granular level, output dropped as low as 30.5 GW on July 18 (Sunday), but ramped up to 38.6 GW July 19 as demand returned after the weekend.

Demand averaged 43 GW July-to-date compared with 44 GW in July 2020 and a 46 GW average in July 2019, TSO data showed.

Hydro generation was also up year on year. Rising river levels on the Meuse and Moselle in Northeastern France that triggered flooding across the border in Belgium and Germany may also reduce the risk of outages later this summer after grid operator RTE warned in June about drought conditions potentially developing across France.

Reactors at EDF's 3 GW Chooz and 5.2 GW Cattenom plants were impacted by low river level and cooling issues in previous years with river-cooled reactors in Southern France often hit hardest in late summer.

Chooz 2 is scheduled to return end-August from extended maintenance, while Chooz 1 will start planned maintenance in September.

At Cattenom, unit 3 is set to return late August from a 10-year overhaul, with unit 4 scheduled for such an overhaul in early 2022.

French forward power prices remain heavily backwardated with Q4 base trading at Eur100/MWh ($118/MWh) on EEX after lower gas and carbon prices saw the contract ease from records set early July.

French Calendar 2022 baseload settled July 16 just above Eur73/MWh, while Calendar 2023 traded at Eur62/MWh.

All contracts were significantly above the regulated Eur42/MWh ARENH price at which EDF has to sell 100 TWh to local suppliers.

EDF on July 6 lifted its nuclear output estimate in France for 2021 to 345-365 TWh. For 2022, the assumption remained unchanged at 330-360 TWh.

S&P Global Platts Analytics forecasts French nuclear output reaching 364 TWh in 2021.

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