Between a drop in electricity production and an increase in consumption, winter promises to be tense

Between a drop in electricity production and an increase in consumption, winter promises to be tense

This Sunday, the leaders of the three French energy companies TotalEnergies, EDF and Engie, in a joint forum, called on the French to “immediately” reduce their energy consumption, at the risk of finding themselves faced with a shortage and soaring prices. This alert, officials of the Electricity Transmission Network (RTE) d ‘Occitania echoed this during the week during the presentation of the annual electrical balance.

“The winter promises to be tense due to the low availability of nuclear power and the uncertainties of gas supply. If our neighbors are faced with difficulties this winter, we will have to reduce our imports,” notes Jacques Tassy, ​​director of the Toulouse RTE France operations center. However, each winter, to cope with consumption peaks, we import 15% of our needs on certain days. This prospect is due to the international context, but also to the underlying trend of increased consumption in our region. After a down year in 2020 due to the Covid-19 crisis, it started to rise again with +1.8%, even if it still remains below that of 2019.

Consumption peaks twice as high in winter as in summer

If peaks occur in Occitania like last week during the heat wave days, with a consumption of 5.4 GW on Friday June 17 due to the activation of air conditioning, against 4.6 GW on the same day a year ago , this is nothing compared to the maximum peaks in winter. On January 11, 2021, on a freezing day when the heating was running at full speed, consumption reached the historic level of 8.7 GW.

However, if consumption is rising locally, regional production is down 6.6% in 2021. The partial shutdown of Golfech has a direct impact on these figures, since nuclear production, which represents 45.3% of the total energy produced in Occitania, fell by 8.7% last year. Adverse weather conditions also had a significant impact on hydropower (-10%), the region’s second source of production.

Admittedly, the solar park is developing strongly in a region known for its strong sunshine (+30.3% installations since 2019), but solar energy currently only represents 9.2% of local production. Renewable energies of all kinds, however, cover 43.2% of electricity consumption in Occitania, when the national rate only reaches 25.3%.

Not enough, however, to cope with the winter consumption peaks that could occur. RTE officials are already calling for eco-gestures. But in the event of peaks, they could resort to other measures, which involve the activation of interruptibility contracts signed with certain companies, which make it possible to interrupt one or more industrial consumers in less than 5 seconds.

If the situation is really critical, RTE has the possibility of reducing the voltage of the electricity network by 5%. Which has never been done so far. And as a very last resort, targeted cuts can take place.

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