The UK is poised to come to France’s rescue as the nations eye an closer emergency energy cooperation amid EDF’s plummeting power output, which an expert told Express.co.uk will benefit Britain further down the line. The two countris are reportedly considering sharing each other’s electricity supplies this winter after France’s grid operator RTE warned it needs “close cooperation” with other nations to keep the power running.
It comes after EDF revealed that nuclear power generation, which usually produces around 70 percent of France’s electricity, plummeted in August by nearly 40 percent year-on-year, largely as a result of corrosion issues with the nation’s nuclear reactors.
This has seen France become a net importer of electricity in the first half of 2022, despite usually exporting cheap nuclear power to the UK via the three cables which trade electricity across the English Channel.
Now, it appears the tables have turned, and French President Emmanuel Macron could need Britain’s help in a bid to keep the lights on as energy costs soar over winter.
Dr Jeff Hardy, Senior Research Fellow at the Grantham Institute, Imperial College London, told Express.co.uk: “The UK is interconnected via high voltage cables to several European countries, including France, Norway, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland. Interconnection is a good thing as it diversifies our supply, enhancing electricity system resilience.
“France has been suffering from nuclear power outages, which has led to a tight electricity market in France. Historically, France has supplied the UK with cheap power from its nuclear fleet. Now, it needs help, which is exactly why interconnection is a good thing for European security.
“At the same time, the UK has been rapidly increasing its renewable electricity generation, particularly offshore wind. In the future, this means the UK will be a net exporter of wind power, particularly on windy days when demand is low. This means we will need more interconnectors in the future as there will be days when we need to shed power.”
It comes as National Grid said it is hoping to benefit from imports from Europe. A July forecast revealed the National Grid would need plenty of imported power supplies this winter, and assumed that Britain can rely on power from Europe – just like in previous years.
In its yearly outlook on winter electricity supplies, the organisation said the UK would be able to use the undersea cables which send power from Europe, but warned of “tight” periods in early December even while receiving this support.
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However, some experts have warned depending on these imports from abroad could be a huge gamble and could even risk blackouts as energy costs soar while supplies get slashed by Vladimir Putin. There are fears Putin may be tempted to shut off all remaining gas exports to Europe this winter.
Bob Seely, a Conservative MP who sits on the influential Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told the Telegraph in July: “There is likely to be an energy emergency in Europe, primarily caused by Germany’s disastrous decisions; first, to shut down its nuclear power stations to appease its obsessively anti-nuclear green lobby, and, second, to become utterly dependent on Russian gas.
“Currently, it seems likely that Putin will squeeze energy supplies further this winter to extract the maximum political pressure in Germany and other EU states that use Russian gas, such as Italy and Hungary. He wants to undermine the coalition in support of Ukraine.”
But according to Dr Hardy, the UK could be in a stronger position than Europe and can in fact help it out after boosting its renewable electricity generation. He told Express.co.uk: “Emergency calls across interconnectors are common. For example, last summer, the UK had to ask France to send less electricity through the interconnectors as our demand was too low (and France responded positively).
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“It is in everyone’s interests for countries to respond to emergency calls if it does not endanger the security of supply in that country. So, whilst the factors that have led to this emergency call are exceptional, if the UK can help, we should. We will certainly have instances in the future where we need help ourselves.”
A spokesman for the National Grid Electricity System Operator said: “We have published an early view of winter outlook to help the industry prepare for this winter.
“In early autumn we will publish a full winter outlook that will be based on verifiable market data as well as extensive engagement with stakeholders, including system operators in other countries, to ensure our analysis is as robust as possible.”