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    Energy crisis - France reboots coal-fired power plant to boost winter electricity supplies


    December 1, 2022 - RFI

     

      France has rebooted a coal-fired power station in Saint-Avold, eastern France, which had been due to close definitively in March.

      The government says that the temporary measure will secure the country's electricity supply over the winter, a sector that is struggling to keep up with demand because of the conflict in Ukraine and maintenance problems with some nuclear plants.

      To counter this, the government has chosen the option of re-starting the Emile-Huchet power plant in Saint Avold, eastern France until March 2023.

      Philippe Lenglart, director of the site told the press that nearly 70 employees have been called back to ensure the smooth functioning of the plant, run by GazelEnergie.

      In total, it will take more than 500,000 tonnes of coal to run the site until the end of March 2023.

      Operating at full capacity, the station produces up to 600 Megawatt hours, which will supply electricity to nearly 600,000 homes in the Grand-Est region.

      Transitional measure

      The Emile-Huchet power station, one of the last in France to run on coal, was to close its doors definitively at the end of March, as part of the government's push to end the use of fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

      The government insists that the re-opening of the plant is a transitional measure, that President Emmanuel Macron's commitment to the environment is not in question.

      -- Why France is struggling to power through the energy crisis Macron had promised, during his first term, to close the last four coal-fired power stations in the country.

      The only other coal-fired power station still open in France is in Cordemais (west).

      In 2020, coal represented 0.3 percent and gas 6.9 percent of fuels used to generate electricity.

      Network strain on the cards

      Around 70 percent of France's electricity needs are provided by public electricity company EDF which operates 56 nuclear reactors.

      However, around two dozen have been offline for months, many because of fears over micro-cracks discovered in emergency cooling systems.

      Officials worry that without sufficient capacity as temperatures drop, EDF will have to buy increasing quantities of electricity on the European power market, where prices have spiked as Russia's war against Ukraine drags on.

      -- France vows to restart stricken nuclear reactors before winter The company has deployed hundreds of workers to get the reactors up and running, but doubts are growing that the company will bring enough reactors back online before winter settles in.

      Last week, grid operator RTE warned of a "high risk" of network strain due to the power plant outages, which could see businesses and households forced to curb usage to avoid outright power cuts.

      Macron has also called for the construction of at least six next-generation nuclear power plants to make France less reliant on energy imports, which could prove attractive to other European countries looking to reduce their reliance on coal and natural gas.

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