Europe Power Prices Fall as EDF Online Reactors Near 3-Year High

Electricity prices in Europe’s biggest economies fell to a record as Electricite de France SA, the world’s biggest nuclear generator, kept the number of reactors online near a three-year high.

EDF, based in Paris, was operating 56 of its 58 nuclear plants, according to RTE, the French grid operator. The utility had 57 units online earlier, the most since January 2011, before an unplanned halt at a reactor today. Next-month power in France and Germany slid as much as 3.6 percent and 2.3 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 November last year, an increase of 7.9 percent from the same period in 2012, RTE data show.

Warmer Weather

Temperatures are forecast to be as much as 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) 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. Germany will have temperatures 1 or 2 degrees Celsius above normal for most of February, Andreas Gassner, a meteorologist at MMInternational, said today by e-mail.

Temperatures of 1 degree Celsius below normal 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 39.75 euros ($54.08) a megawatt-hour at 2:03 p.m. Berlin time, broker data show. The French equivalent contract slid as low as a record 53.40 euros a megawatt-hour.

French nuclear availability dropped to 96 percent from 99 percent after an unplanned halt at EDF’s 1,335-megawatt St. Alban-1 unit at 12:22 p.m. Paris time. The 910-megawatt Blayais-2 reactor in the southwest, the utility’s other offline unit, halted for maintenance on Aug. 24 and is scheduled to resume operations on Feb. 1, according to RTE.

Safety Checks

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.

Increasing availability at reactors 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.

To contact the reporters on this story: Rachel Morison in London at rmorison@bloomberg.net; Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Lars Paulsson at lpaulsson@bloomberg.net

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