French energy squeeze forces Britain to cut imports

Demand on France's grid higher than expected amid cold weather

French students build a snowman in Kensington Gardens in London. The UK has cut energy imports from across the Channel. AP
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Britain was briefly forced to curb electricity imports from France as the cold weather caused an energy squeeze across the Channel.

Facing tight power supplies on Monday, France invoked a mutual support mechanism and cut exports to the UK by half, grid operator RTE said.

It said the shortfall lasted an hour and came as French energy consumption rose higher than expected during a cold snap, Reuters reported.

Prices for UK electricity flew off the charts as snow blanketed Britain on Sunday and Monday, but emergency coal reserves were not needed.

The cold winter weather was compounded by a lack of wind, in what is known in Germany as a dark lull or Dunkelflaute.

The French operator said the request to Britain was meant to forestall more drastic measures such as power cuts or an emergency alert to consumers.

France imported more electricity from Belgium and Italy as well as cutting export to Britain by 600 megawatts.

No such measures were needed on Tuesday, an RTE representative said.

Snow blankets the UK - in pictures

The squeeze came despite an improvement in nuclear power generation from France's vast network of reactors.

Electricity company EDF has faced a string of power cuts that have slowed production just as the war in Ukraine hit Europe's energy supplies.

Lower exports from France were blamed in Germany for a potential gap in supply that forced Berlin to postpone the final switch-off of its own nuclear power plants.

French prices for Tuesday's evening peak of demand hit €835 ($891) per megawatt hour, Bloomberg reported.

In Germany, they hit €1,000 for the hour from 2pm, and in Sweden day-ahead prices were at their highest levels in 11 years.

Updated: December 13, 2022, 3:26 PM