March 5. 2024. 1:00

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French strikes cause costly surge in electricity imports from Germany


France imported €330 million worth of electricity in order to meet domestic demand in January while only exporting €96 million to Germany during that same time period, data shows.

With its unique fleet of 56 nuclear reactors, France has traditionally been a net exporter of electricity to its European neighbours.

Yet, as its nuclear fleet experienced widespread failures and maintenance last year, France has relied on Germany to bridge the gap.

“Electricity imports and exports are an important part of the internal electricity market and Germany benefits greatly from them,” explained Patrick Graichen, a top level German public official, in a written response to a question posed by a conservative lawmaker on 3 February.

In January, France imported about 2,000,000 Megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity from Germany. In turn, Germany imported about 758,805 MWh, according to data from the SMARD platform run by the German grid regulator.

The net exports of about 1.2 million MWh made up a third of Germany’s net electricity exports in January.

And Germany is getting the better end of the deal, market data shows. Taking into account the price electricity was traded at, the so-called “day-ahead” market,” Germany received much more for its electricity exports than it paid for its imports.

According to the government, Germany exported electricity to France at an average price of €165 per MWh, while paying €129 per imported MWh.

“This results in an average price difference of 36 euros per megawatt hour or 3.6 cents per kilowatt-hour,” Graichen explained in his statement.

Defiance grows in France against EU electricity market

As expected, French senators on Thursday (12 January) rejected a resolution to take the country out of the European electricity market. But while the resolution was largely expected to fail, the vote on the contrary revealed growing defiance against the EU market.

French strikes cause disruption

France regained its position as the EU’s top electricity exporter in January, as more than two thirds of France’s nuclear reactors came back online that month, with 44 operating and 12 down.

Yet, German electricity exports to France began increasing as of mid-January. This coincided with strikes among French workers who protested plans to raise the retirement age from 62 to 64 years.

On 7 February, Reuters reported that “nuclear capacity was lowered by 1.8 GW and thermal plants were reduced by 2.3 GW, while hydropower disruptions totalled 220 megawatts” following the strikes.

At the state power company EDF, which operates the country’s nuclear reactors, some 40% of employees were recorded as on strike on 31 January.

France regains top spot as EU’s electricity provider

Following a record year for electricity imports, the relatively calm weather and relaunch of nuclear reactors have allowed France to start 2023 by exporting more electricity to neighbouring countries than it imports, regaining its top spot as the bloc’s main provider.