Strikes, Outages, Slash French Output by 2.2 GW

A series of strikes at French nuclear plants owned by power giant EDF have caused fluctuating electricity supplies, prompting concerns as the country prepares for a prolonged cold snap.

Workers are reportedly protesting wage negotiations and a possible plan by the French government to restructure EDF. The energy branch of French trade union CGT on November 12 scheduled  strikes at the state-owned utility on November 13 and November 29, Reuters reported.

Their impact has so far been tremendous. On November 13, strikes slashed power output by about 6 GW, Reuters reported. On November 20, strikes that began on Monday at the Penly 2 reactor reduced output by 900 MW, while other strikes at the 900-MW Cruas 4 slashed that plant’s output by 735 MW. The action was due to end at 2 p.m. local time.

French grid operator RTE on Tuesday also reported that a strike prompted reduction of hydropower generation by 370 MW. S&P Global Platts reported that strikes and outages in total reduced generation capacity by a total 2.2 GW on November 20.

On November 18, Reuters also reported that France’s long-awaited long-term energy strategy could be unveiled over the coming week. The roadmap could set a deadline of 2035 for France’s anticipated plans to shrink its nuclear share from the current 75% to 50%. While the country has indicated it would drastically reduce its reliance on nuclear power, it has not yet set a clear deadline to do so.

The strategy could also shed more light on a possible restructuring of EDF’s corporate structure. This July, Reuters noted “regular speculation” about the possibility that the French government, which is EDF’s majority shareholder, could split the company’s nuclear activities into a separate legal unit. EDF officials have reportedly said that the state had not yet asked EDF to consider a review of its corporate structure.

In its third quarter earnings call, EDF Group Senior Executive Vice President of Finance Xavier Girre noted that over the first nine months of 2018, cumulative nuclear output in France was up 6.6 TWh, reaching 290 TWh. Hydro output grew to 38 TWh, up 9.4 TWh compared to the same period in 2017, owing to “significantly improved hydro conditions.” Dominique Minière, group senior executive vice president for nuclear and thermal, noted that one reason for increased nuclear output was that “the outages in connection with the Creusot Forge plant manufacturing files and by the ‘carbon segregation’ issue, was less pronounced than in our initial forecasts.”

Asked about the government’s reported consideration of restructuring EDF, Girre declined to comment, saying, “I have clearly no comment to make on this topic and I do not want to comment on rumors concerning plans that the Government would be considering.”

—Sonal Patel is a POWER associate editor (@sonalcpatel, @POWERmagazine)