The risk of using the Ecowatt system, and in particular the red alert signal, appears “high in January but will largely depend on weather conditions and the possible occurrence of even a moderate cold snap”, according to the monthly update of the “prospects for the electricity system published” by RTE.

Clearly: the risk that RTE calls on the French to reduce their electricity consumption in January, under penalty of power cuts, has increased.

“The month of January now concentrates more risk” than in its previous analysis, writes RTE.

For the time being, the drop in electricity consumption, observed for several weeks (-6.6% over 4 weeks compared to the average from 2014 to 2019), “reduces the risk on the security of supply” electricity for the ‘winter.

But uncertainties remain due to record unavailability of EDF’s nuclear fleet this winter. With nearly half of its 56 reactors shut down for scheduled maintenance or known or suspected corrosion problems, nuclear electricity production is expected to reach a historic low this year, between 275 and 285 terawatt hours (TWh). .

– Normal or cold winter? –

Thus, according to the “most probable scenario”, only around 40 gigawatts (GW) of power from the nuclear fleet should be available at the beginning of January, according to RTE’s forecast, or around 65% of the installed nuclear capacity. The prospect of reaching 45 GW as initially planned on September 14 by RTE in the presentation of its winter scenario, now appears “improbable” but “not impossible” according to Thomas Veyrencq, executive director in charge of strategy, forecasting and RTE’s assessment, during an online press briefing.

EDF, for its part, provides in its official calendar an availability of 48 GW on January 1, according to the analysis of AFP.

“We have noted a small but real deviation from our central scenario, a delay of around two weeks”, on the forecast for the availability of the nuclear fleet, a deviation which could be “more significant” in January, according to RTE .

The reasons: the “social movements” in September and October, which put a stop to work as well as “delays and technical hazards” in routine maintenance. On the other hand, this situation is not linked to work to resolve stress corrosion problems, programmed on 16 reactors considered to be “sensitive or highly sensitive” to this phenomenon.

Until then, the probability of activation of the Ecowatt red signal which warns of possible targeted cuts by sending an alert appears “unlikely” for the end of November, and “average” for the beginning of December. Other Ecowatt signals are green and orange.

“The quantitative risk level is unchanged over the whole of winter. But it will be distributed slightly differently: less risk in December, more in January, less at the end of February and March. But quantitatively over the winter it is the same risk and therefore the number of expected Ecowatt red days is not changed compared to what we published in September”, explained Thomas Veyrencq.

In case of normal winter, the number of activations of the Ecowatt red signal is estimated from 0 to 2, and from 0 to 5 in case of cold winter, said RTE.