“It will take a few years for a return to normal”, warns Emmanuelle Wargon

Juliette Moreau Alvarez
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09:25, December 09, 2022

A tense winter awaits France this year. The risks of load shedding hang over the country, while the prices of electricity and gas are soaring. If in recent days the collective effort of households and businesses has been widely felt on the network, the situation is far from stabilizing. Guest of the morning of Europe 1 this Friday, Emmanuelle Wargon, president of the Energy Regulatory Commission (Cre), welcomes this progress but remains lucid: the French nuclear fleet continues to suffer. “It’s going to take a few years to be totally back to normal.”

The nuclear fleet remains under tension

The years when France produced 100% of its electricity are far behind us. This Friday, the revival of the French nuclear fleet remains timid: 38 reactors out of 56 were operating. The cause: a phenomenon of “corrosion under stress” in the power plants and a delay in maintenance. “EDF has lost a quarter of its nuclear production compared to usual, which is enormous”, explains the president of Cre on Europe 1. “We think that this winter will be rather delicate, probably next winter again, and then each year it will improve”, predicts Emmanuelle Wargon.

The winter of 2023-2024 will be particularly difficult, underlines the former minister. In addition to national difficulties on nuclear power, tensions over gas supplies will persist. Nevertheless, Emmanuelle Wargon wants to be optimistic about the consequences of this situation on households and businesses. “We were worried about this winter but I think we will show collectively that we can get through it.” According to her, it will be the same thing next year.

“We need to produce more”

France is not helpless in the face of the slowdown in its production nuclear. To compensate, the state has notably imported more electricity, “the equivalent of 15 gigawatts of power”, from Germany, Italy or even Belgium. “It’s a lot”, admits Emmanuelle Wargon, “but it is what allows us to balance the network.”

The president of the Cre knows it, “we consume more electricity”. “So we have to produce more energy.” For that, we need “nuclear”, yes, but also “more renewable energies”, specifies Emmanuelle Wargon at the microphone of Europe 1. This is what the government is currently doing, with “the development of wind power offshore, onshore and solar”. A subject which nevertheless remains “complicated”, where there is “a problem of acceptability”, she admits.