Europe Power Prices Plunge as Most EDF Reactors Online Since ’11

Jan 15, 2014 4:30 am ET

Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Electricity prices in Europe’s biggest economies fell to a record as Electricite de France SA, the world’s biggest nuclear generator, kept more reactors online than at any time in the past three years.

EDF, based in Paris, is operating 57 of its 58 nuclear plants, a level it last achieved in January 2011, according to data from RTE, the French grid operator. Actual output rose to 59,262 megawatts on Jan. 13, the highest since Nov. 29, 2012. Next-month power in France and Germany slid today 3.4 percent and 1.8 percent respectively, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg.

France’s reactors are running at almost full strength at a time when power prices are already under pressure as Europe is poised for a demand-zapping second month of warmer-than-average temperatures in January. Stormy weather also boosted wind power generation to records in Germany and the U.K. in the past six weeks, grid data show.

France has “more power than they need right now,” Ricardo Klimaschka, a power trader at Energieunion GmbH in Schwerin, Germany, said by e-mail. “If it’s warm like now and the snow in the Alps is melting, then the French won’t be able to use all their electricity. This will have an impact on German prices.”

Germany, Europe’s biggest economy and power market, is France’s largest electricity trading partner. It imported 13.7 terawatt-hours from the French in the 11 months to Nov. last year, an increase of 7.9 percent from the same period in 2012, RTE data show.

The temperature is forecast to be as much as 4 degrees Celsius above normal across most of France and Germany this week, Byron Drew, the lead forecaster at MetraWeather in Reading, England, said yesterday by e-mail.

European Homes

Temperatures of 1 degree Celsius below normal (1.8 Fahrenheit) mean an increase in demand of about 2,300 megawatts, according to Philippe Torrion, head of optimization and trading at EDF in Paris. A thousand megawatts can power 2 million European homes.

German power for February delivery declined to a record 40.10 euros ($55) a megawatt-hour at 9:33 a.m. Berlin time, broker data show. The French equivalent contract slid to a record 53.50 euros a megawatt-hour.

EDF’s 910-megawatt Blayais-2 reactor in the southwest, the only plant offline, halted for maintenance on Aug. 24 and is scheduled to resume operations on Feb. 1, according to RTE. The last time the company’s reactors were all generating was Jan. 10, 2011.

EDF cut its 2013 forecast for French atomic output due to longer-than-planned reactor outages in the third quarter. The utility cut the target to between 405 terawatt-hours and 410 terawatt hours from 410 terawatt-hours to 415 terawatt-hours.

Safety Checks

Making atomic plants more available to produce power was one of the tasks then Prime Minister Francois Fillon gave EDF Chief Executive Officer Henri Proglio when he took the job in 2009.

Since then, EDF has started in-depth inspections of its atomic generators, as asked for by the safety regulator Autorite de Surete Nucleaire. These are carried out on reactors every 10 years to determine whether they can operate for another decade. Each inspection can shut a reactor for about two months. The utility tries to schedule shutdowns for when demand is low, not in the European winter months.

--With assistance from Julia Mengewein in Frankfurt. Editors: James Herron, Lars Paulsson