High temperatures and drought have deepened Europe’s energy crisis this summer, affecting power generation at a time when European economies are already facing unprecedented oil and gas prices.
In France, Europe’s leading producer of nuclear energy, several power stations along the Rhone and Garonne rivers were forced to cut production because river temperatures were too high to cool the power stations. This further reduced the power supply after a dozen of the country’s 56 nuclear power plants were shut down for planned maintenance.
Nuclear electricity production in France was 20.1 TWh in June, well below the 27.7 TWh recorded the same month in 2021, according to the latest data published by the operator of the French electricity transmission network RTE.
Hydropower has also taken a hit. On average, France experienced a rainfall deficit of nearly 84% in July. As river and lake stocks fell to their lowest levels in more than 20 years, only 4 TWh of hydroelectricity was produced in June, the lowest level on record for the same period.
Meanwhile, Electricité de France (EDF) reported in August that in the Rhone Valley, the Alps and the Côte d’Azur region, which account for more than 70% of the country’s hydroelectric capacity, the production of hydroelectricity has fallen by 60 percent since January this year, the Xinhua news agency reported.
The situation in Italy is no better. Northern Italy, home to the Po, the country’s longest river, and its main hydroelectric power stations, is currently facing its worst drought in 70 years. The level of Po has fallen by almost 50% compared to the average of previous years.
Energy company Enel said a plant near Piacenza, southeast of Milan, was closed indefinitely in June, and most other hydroelectric plants are not operating at full capacity due to low levels of the Po who feeds them.
From January to May, hydroelectricity production fell by almost 40% compared to the same period last year, according to Utilitalia, the Italian federation of water companies.
Norway, Europe’s largest electricity exporter with hydroelectric production of 137.9 TWh last year, is preparing a framework to limit electricity exports.
Due to “half-empty” water reservoirs, Norway’s hydroelectric power exports, which have been marketed as “Europe’s battery” and a major alternative to Russia’s lack of gas, are not holding up. not that promise.
At the end of July, the filling level of Norwegian water reservoirs was 67.9%, significantly lower than the 77.7% corresponding to the same period of the year from 2002 to 2021. The lowest occupancy rate in 50.4% was seen in southwestern Norway earlier this month, according to the latest report from the Norwegian Directorate of Water Resources and Energy (NVE).
In a bid to address the worsening high price situation affecting local consumers, Norwegian Oil and Energy Minister Terje Aasland said the government was ready to take further action if the situation worsened. deteriorated. This action may involve either storage requirements for water reservoirs, or export restrictions, or both.
Coal-fired power generation has also been affected in Germany, as flowing Rhine waters have made navigation along the river more difficult. A local shipping company told media that while still seaworthy, the boats could only carry about a quarter of their capacity.
Düsseldorf-based Uniper, one of Germany’s largest energy supply companies, said two of its coal-fired power plants in western Germany could experience erratic operation until early September in due to the insecurity of the coal supply.
Falling production levels pushed up prices. In July, electricity prices in France and Germany approached record levels. In the first week of August, electricity futures for next year in Europe topped 550 euros ($550) per megawatt-hour, compared to less than 100 euros ($100) a year ago .
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