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Analysis of the electricity supply-demand balance for the winter 2012-2013 period

Source: RTE - DICAP 08/11/2012

A satisfactory situation with moderate risk of interrupted supply

In the event of an intense and sustained spell of cold weather (characterized by temperatures 6C to 8C below seasonal norms), or a notable deterioration in the availability of generating facilities, in order to satisfy French electricity demand, suppliers will likely need to obtain large quantities of energy on the European markets, in addition to invoking demand response agreements with their customers. In such a scenario, subject to the availability of generating capacity in Europe, the import levels required could reach 5,400 MW. This level would nevertheless remain compatible with the grid limits (import capacities ranging from 7,000 to 10,000 MW depending on the conditions).

Every year, RTE conducts a prospective study of the balance between supply and demand for electricity for the coming winter period, covering the whole of mainland France. This time of year generally sees high levels of electricity demand as temperatures fall.

The study is used to identify periods where the supply-demand balance comes under strain; it explores measures that can be taken by electricity market players and RTE to avoid any interruption in supply during peak consumption periods in France.

Forecast margins have been calculated for both the morning demand plateau (between 9am and 12pm) and the evening demand peak (7pm). In winter, the morning plateau is lower than the evening peak, but lasts for longer. The purpose of calculating these forecast margins is to provide electricity market participants with a more comprehensive and more accurate picture of the expected situation.

For the winter period 2012-2013, the study is based on demand forecasts that are slightly higher than last winter, with demand expected to peak at 84,500 MW during the second week of January, assuming temperatures are in line with reference values.

Based on the most recent information provided by the generators, the projected availability of the French generating fleet over the winter 2012-2013 period is up by 4,500 to 10,000 MW compared with last winter for the months of November and December. This is due to a more favourable schedule of plant shutdowns and maintenance outages, and the arrival of new generating facilities, partly offsetting the shutdown and maintenance schedule. Availability is expected to remain stable over this period, as compared with the projected outlook for last year.

Under normal temperature conditions, the balance of cross-border exchanges is expected to show France as a net electricity exporter over the entire study period, and imports should not be necessary over this period in order to ensure balanced coverage of electricity demand in France and thereby satisfy security criteria.

In the event of an intense and sustained cold snap (temperatures between 6 and 8C lower than seasonal norms), forecast reserves margin will fall, as electricity demand is particularly sensitive to changes in outside temperatures. According to these hypotheses, imports of up to 5,400 MW could be required to cover electricity demand in France and satisfy the RTE's margin security criterion, subject to the availability of generation in Europe. Availability of generation in Europe should remain similar to last year - except in Belgium, which may also need to import electricity. This value remains compatible with forecast grid limits, the imports capacities would be evaluated in conjunction with our European counterparts (capacities between 7,000 and 10,000 MW depending on conditions).

In such circumstances, French market suppliers could invoke additional demand response clauses in their contracts with their own customers, or obtain supplies on the European market using the capacities offered by RTE on interconnectors. In the event of a significant change in the hypotheses underlying this study, RTE will update the forecast analysis.

Also, the Brittany and eastern Provence-Alpes-Cte d'Azur (PACA) regions still have generation deficits, i.e. they consume more electricity than they generate, and remain fragile power "peninsulas" at times of peak demand, in spite of efforts undertaken to reinforce the network in these areas. RTE is forging ahead with efforts to promote improved demand side management through its Ecowatt eco-awareness initiative, which aims to encourage people in the areas concerned to moderate their electricity use during peak periods in winter. Depending on operating conditions, an appeal to reduce electricity consumption will be launched from the Ecowatt Brittany or Ecowatt Provence-Azur information website.

Demand side management actions taken by consumers to control or reduce electricity use, will help to ease tightness in the electricity supply-demand balance and thus strengthen security of supply for the country. In addition to being civic-minded actions, they have genuine benefits.

> View the analysis of supply-demand balance scenarios for the winter period 2012-2013.