EDF’s state-owned reactors are causing France’s nuclear power output to plummet and could make an emergency blackout plan for the UK more likely, experts have told Express.co.uk. This has heightened fears the UK may not be able to import enough energy from Europe as Russian President Vladamir Putin mulls over further gas cuts. National Grid has drafted up an emergency “worst-case scenario” plan that would see Britons subjected to three-hour rolling blackouts during the coldest months of the year as operators work to balance the grid.
While National Grid and the Government have stressed that these plans are only in an emergency scenario and are unlikely to happen, fears that France will send less electricity to Britain via interconnections linking the two nations are beginning to spark serious concerns among energy experts.
It comes after EDF warned this week that its nuclear power output could plummet again, marking the fourth time this year that the French energy giant scaled back predictions for its nuclear electricity output.
But Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to cooperate on nuclear energy in efforts to avoid energy shortages this winter.
Dr Paul Dorfman, an associate fellow from the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex told Express.co.uk: “Despite the friendly rhetoric between Sunak and Macron, trying to keep the lights on in Paris, while coping with the broken French nuclear fleet, will take precedence over power supply to the UK – and will mean UK blackouts are much more likely.”
Nuclear energy usually generates 70 percent of the country’s electricity, but after several EDF reactors were taken offline, there have been serious concerns over Paris’ ability to avoid blackouts.
Kathryn Porter, an energy consultant at Watt Logic, has said the issues at EDF would “restrict the generating capacity available at the coldest time of the year”. With its own domestic problems, there are fears that the UK-France energy sharing agreement may be pushed to one side, despite the leaders from the two countries announcing closer cooperation earlier this week.
Simon Cran-McGreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, agreed that France’s current situation may make blackouts more likely.
He told Express.co.uk: “The issues at French nuclear power stations, coupled with the potential shortages of gas for power generation on the continent, do mean that the UK is likely to have more difficulty in securing imports this winter – National Grid has included this scenario in its Winter Outlook, as one of the factors that would make power shortages more likely.”
READ MORE: British Gas and Octopus Energy join new scheme to slash bills
But Mr Cran-McGreehin said there could be a way of avoiding the emergency scenario without the need to import any energy from Europe, although he did stress that it would be a major challenge.
He added: “In theory, we could meet our peak demand without imports, and regardless of wind levels, provided that all other power stations (nuclear, gas, coal, hydro, etc) operated at maximum output – but there are two major issues with that.
“Firstly, it would be very tight. We can make the situation easier by using less electricity, especially in the evenings when demand is highest – large industrial customers have had these ‘demand-side response’ (DSR) contracts for decades, and now National Grid is also offering payments to households to cut peak demand.
“Secondly, it’s hard to guarantee that all of those other power plants would operate at maximum output – nuclear and coal power plants in particular have quite a high risk of faults.
Defence system could ‘change Ukraine war’ and devastate Russia [REVEAL]
Germany sends Putin huge warning and unveils new ‘panther’ tank [REPORT]
UK wasting ‘millions a day’ in energy as wind farms told to turn off [INSIGHT]
“National Grid’s Winter Outlook assumes a certain likelihood of faults that would reduce power output – that makes the ‘margin’ even tighter, which is why it’s warned of potential shortages.
“This all becomes much harder if we have gas shortages – we’ve been relying on gas power stations to meet peak demand and to act as back-up in tandem with renewables, but this winter gas might not be able to play that role fully.
“And, conversely, this all becomes easier if there’s strong wind power – we’d be less dependent on power plants that might have faults and on gas power plants that might face shortages of fuel.”
Express.co.uk has approached National Grid for comment.