France ramps up electricity imports to absorb supply risk as EDF strike looms

Author: Joachim Moxon


A last-minute strike warning lifted French day-ahead electricity prices on the over-the-counter market relative to the exchange-traded value on Wednesday morning.

But the jump was modest, despite reports of over 10GW of generation capacity potentially being withdrawn from the market, as scheduled imports of power during peak hours ramped up to largely offset any risk of supply shortages.

Power sector strikes have become increasingly common due to controversial labour reform, while unions have also objected to government policy on hydro concessions and nuclear reduction.

Strikes were also organised on 12 and 19 May, making it a weekly event, though both coincided with a drop in day-ahead prices, reflecting the sufficiency of import capacity to prevent supply shortages.

Action was also organised in April and March but did not have a significant impact on day-head prices, compared to strikes that took place in February, January and November, when the power price did push higher, although this must be seen in the context of colder winter months and higher demand.

France is a net importer relative to the rest of the Centralwest Europe (CWE) region during the winter, and generally an exporter during summer, but can switch from exporter to importer during the warmer months to ease any potential supply shocks.

The strike notice was issued by transmission system operator RTE. It is to last 24 hours, from 21:00 on Wednesday evening to 21:00 on Thursday evening. The notice came just 45 minutes ahead of the first trades on the over-the-counter (OTC) day-ahead market, with the contract opening at €29.75/MWh before jumping to 30.50/MWh by mid-morning.

At the time of writing early on Wednesday afternoon, the OTC contract had last traded at €30.25/MWh, while the exchange settled lower at €29.66/MWh.

France is scheduled to import close to full capacity during peak hours on Thursday, as part of the CWE flow-based market coupling capacity allocation method, unlike for Wednesday delivery when it was scheduled to export all day.

Thursday is forecast to be a day of very little wind in both France and Germany, though this is to be partly compensated by high solar generation.

Nuclear availability stood at 70% on Wednesday and is scheduled to increase to 73% on Thursday. It covers about 70% of domestic production during peak hours, with under 20% coming from hydro, including pumped storage.