National Grid orders coal stations to turn on as France’s exports soar

National Grid has ordered the heating of back-up coal power plants to heat on Thursday, as the UK’s energy market is tightening and France’s exports soar.

The colder weather has led to increased energy demand in the UK and Europe. This was made worse by Wednesday’s closure of 13 of the 56 French nuclear reactors.

According to the Grid’s electricity system operating wings (ESO), an average of 2.11GW was exported to France every hour during the day. This is up from the weekly average average of 0.2GW.

According to data, exports stood at 1.04GW as of Thursday morning. France’s nuclear output was down to 44GW by Thursday morning, well below its 2021 capacity, which is 61GW.

France’s dependence on its old nuclear power stations has caused it to suffer. Nearly half of France’s reactors were shut down last year because of heat waves or overdue maintenance.

Paul Dorfman, the chairman of the academic thinktank Nuclear Consulting Group said that these fluxes, triggered by the poor state of France’s nuclear fleet, aren’t good either for affordability, reliability or sustainability.

National Grid currently sells power to France for around PS240/MWh. Dorfman said that this would be “dangerous for EDF”, which was dumping power to us last Wednesday at less than half the price.

Today’s spot price in the UK was PS113.5/MWh, while prices in France are EUR150MW/h according RTE, France’s power grid operator.

Drax Group (LSE DRX:DRX) and EDF manage the UK’s contingency coal fired power stations. They were kept in operation by the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy last winter amid concerns about energy shortages.

Some of these had been ordered by the ESO to heat up early this week, including EDF’s West Burton station and two Drax units in North Yorkshire. However, these were later taken down.

The station would be used only on Thursday, “if necessary,” as domestic demand is unlikely to rise due to warmer temperatures forecast for the week.