Cold weather could cause French power cuts next week

FILE PHOTO: Electrical power pylons of high-tension electricity power lines are seen in Saint-Folquin near Gravelines nuclear power plant

PARIS (Reuters) - Cold weather could lead to power cuts in France on Monday as delays to the restart of nuclear power following repair work leave supply lagging demand, analysts said.

Nuclear power supply had been expected to reach around 40 gigawatts (GW) this week, but operator EDF's delay in restarting reactors meant it rose to only around 35 GW, leaving France more reliant on imports and gas-fired production.

Refinitiv analyst Nathalie Gerl said the situation as a cold spell grips northwestern Europe this weekend and next week would be "much more critical" but for efforts to curb demand, especially by big industrial consumers.

There was still a risk of a shortfall just on Monday, she said.

"If we remain at 35 GW, next week Monday could become quite tight: we expect the demand at otherwise seasonally normal levels, but 35 GW of nuclear would be too low to meet a possible demand peak at 73 GW," Gerl said.

The current EDF schedule shows 3 GW of nuclear power returning to the grid next week, putting total capacity at 38 GW for the first cold spell of the peak demand winter season.

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Grid operator RTE said on Thursday evening that there is no risk to security of supply on Monday even with the cold weather and low nuclear availability.

RTE said earlier that France may face "some days" this winter when there was too little electricity supply.

Vincent Balouet, CEO of crisis management firm Maitrise des Crises, which advises business, told Reuters operators as a first step could lower voltage on the grid by 1%-3%, a difference households would barely notice.

Other measures, which the government has said are already in place to ensure critical facilities such as hospitals and traffic lights function, include asking major industrial demand centres, such as aluminum and cement producers, to be ready to temporarily cut use in return for financial compensation.

(Reporting by Forrest Crellin; editing by Barbara Lewis and Sandra Maler)