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French Power Exports to Germany Rise Amid Record Low Dam Output

France was a net exporter of power to Germany for a second month in May after a decision by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to keep shut nuclear power plants.

France exported a net 956 gigawatt-hours of electricity last month to Germany, with the absolute level of exports rising 70 percent compared with the same month last year, according to data posted on the website of French grid Reseau de Transport d’Electricite.

The increase came during a month when French hydroelectric output was the lowest in 50 years due to a drought, RTE said. Nuclear output was higher.

France, which gets three-quarters of its power from 58 nuclear reactors, has criticized Merkel’s decision to keep shut the country’s seven oldest reactors plus another atomic station and exit nuclear power completely by 2022. French ministers and lawmakers have said the resulting lower generating capacity will make Germany more reliant on French atomic power, possibly putting strain on European power markets.

French power exports to Germany surged 54 percent during the first five months of the year while imports dropped 45 percent, the industry ministry has said. The trend is a reversal of last year when France, Europe’s second biggest electricity market after Germany, was a net power importer from its northeastern neighbor.

Output from Electricite de France SA’s nuclear reactors has risen 7.2 percent since the start of the year while hydroelectric output was down 46 percent in May and 30 percent since the start of the year, RTE data showed.

French Dams

Production from French dams, mostly operated by EDF and GDF Suez SA, fell to the lowest level since 1961 when capacity was just half of what it is currently, the grid said. French installed wind power capacity reached 6,000 megawatts.

France faces the prospect of having to rely on electricity imports in August and September should the dry weather continue and temperatures rise to higher than normal levels, according to a forecast published this month by the grid.

Since the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is facing an election next year, has vowed to continue to invest in the atomic industry. This contrasts with the German and Swiss decisions to phase out the energy and results of an Italian referendum to ban the energy.

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