To avoid power cuts, France is resigned to a surplus of coal

The French government has promised to shut them down one by one. But not this winter. On the contrary, the last two coal-fired power stations still in operation in the country have left to “power” more than expected. Even though it is the most polluting fuel, everything seems good to save the electricity network from annoying supply disruptions, especially with regard to heating needs.

A draft decree, open for consultation by the Ministry of Ecological Transition until January 20, “Aims to allow an exceptional exemption”. In this case, it will be a question of raising the operating threshold for the first two months of the year. If the text is adopted, the two units (units) of Cordemais (Loire-Atlantique) and that of Saint-Avold (Moselle) will each be able to produce up to 1 kilotonne of carbon dioxide equivalent per megawatt of electrical power, i.e. “Approximately 1000 hours of operation”. This is more than what was previously provided for by the Energy-Climate Law of 2019, and by a decree valid from … from 1is January 2022: an annual threshold of 0.7 kilotons, i.e. “Approximately 700 hours of operation”.

A “necessary” and temporary evil

Set to disappear in the years to come, the share of coal already corresponds to a minimal portion: on January 6 at 7 p.m., the usual peak in daily consumption, it only constituted 2% of the French electricity mix. In front of solar, fuel oil and biomass. But behind wind power (7%), gas (10%), hydraulics (16%) and especially nuclear (64%).

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The ministry presents its draft decree as an evil too ” necessary ” only temporary. At the end of December, RTE, the national operator of the electricity transmission network, increased its level of vigilance for the month of January. In the event of temperatures 4 ° C lower than seasonal norms, and in the absence of wind to power the wind turbines, the balance of the electrical system may require special measures. In particular, targeted power interruptions among industrial sites, subject to financial compensation. Even, for two hours at the most, for households.

The country’s electricity system is increasingly dependent on weather – wind and solar operating intermittently – as well as border interconnections

According to the entourage of Barbara Pompili, Minister of Ecological Transition, the situation betrays “A symptom”. That of the low availability of the nuclear fleet, the main supplier of electricity in the country – low carbon electrons, and therefore more favorable to the climate, unlike those drawn from gas, coal and fuel oil. For two years, the Covid-19 crisis has disturbed the schedule of maintenance operations. In addition, the shutdown of reactor n ° 2 at Chooz (Ardennes) has already been extended by three months, due to a fault linked to the safety injection circuit, as at Civaux (Vienne).

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