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what you need to know about the electricity peak that prompted the French network manager to sound the alert

The late cold snap that is currently crossing France is panicking the thermometers, and the heating is once again heavily used indoors. A peak in consumption was even expected on Monday April 4 in the morning, risking energizing the electrical distribution system. Although the manager of the French electricity transmission network, RTE, assured Sunday that there was “no risk of cuts”, However, he pointed out that “safety margins are reduced” and hascalled on companies and individuals to limit their use of electricity. Franceinfo explains the reasons for this call to consume less.

Why was there a spike in consumption?

The polar air coming from the Far North caused the temperatures to drop sharply at the start of spring. It snowed in many regions on Friday and since then night frosts have followed. It was sometimes -9°C in places, as reported by Météo France. The night from Sunday to Monday also recorded the coldest temperatures for the month of April since 1947, according to the forecaster.

This climatic episode (five to six degrees below normal for the season) forced individuals to turn up their heating, causing a peak in electricity consumption. However, this increase in demand comes at a time when a large part of the French nuclear fleet is under maintenance. “Of the 56 nuclear reactors that exist in France, 27 are currently shut down for maintenance reasons”, explained Sunday on franceinfo Jean-Paul Roubin, director of operations of RTE. The transition from electrical system, planned until 2024, reduces the margins available in winter, requiring vigilance during these periods of high consumption.

The two events combined make “consumption is higher than the production available in France”, recalled Jean-Paul Roubin. Monday, according to RTE’s Eco2Mix site, which tracks data in real time, Ihe national electricity consumption peaked between 8:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., with more than 71,600 MW, a figure slightly lower than expected (73,000 MW initially expected for 9 a.m.).

Why shouldn’t there be cuts, despite everything?

In order to make up the difference between current production and consumption, and avoid any risk of cuts, France had to import electricity from abroad on Monday morning. “A volume of the order of 11,000 megawatts”, had estimated Sunday the director of the exploitation of RTE. In this tense context, the manager of the electricity transmission network activated its consumption alert system, by triggering the national orange Ecowatt signal. This system, rolled out nationally two years ago, displays the level of consumption of French people in real time, region by region. Four colors can be displayed on this “electricity weather”.

Generally, green takes precedence, which shows that consumption is “normal”. The signal changes to yellow when it becomes “high”then in orange when the electrical system is “tense” , as is currently the case, calling on consumers to “eco-gestures” in their use of electricity. If Ecowatt were to turn red, a sign of an electrical system “wrought up”targeted cuts would become inevitable and actions to reduce consumption essential.

How can individuals and businesses help?

Households were invited to take simple steps to reduce their consumption, even if it is “still too early to know what the impact of eco-gestures is”, said RTE. Concretely, on the heating side, RTE encourages people to favor a temperature of 19°C, to lower the thermostat of electric radiators if no one is occupying the accommodation during the day and to close the shutters and/or draw the curtains at nightfall, in order to improve insulation to retain heat.

It is also recommended to avoid using household appliances (dishwasher, washing machine or dryer) during a period when the national electrical system is live. In order to circumvent the peak hours of electricity consumption at mealtime, with the use of hotplates, it is also advisable to prepare meals in advance. And of course, you have to be sure to turn off the lights in the unoccupied rooms and the devices such as the television, the internet box, the computer or the microwave, which remain on standby and which consume.

All cThe initiatives help reduce demand. For example, RTE specified in its press release on Saturday that “if all French people turn off a light bulb, this leads to a saving in electricity consumption of 600 MW, or approximately the consumption of a city like Toulouse”.

Same thing on the side of companies and communities, invited for example to postpone the ignition of the heaters after the peak of consumption. “For companies that use IT a lot, that use remote meetings a lot, messaging, the use of applications which, with video streams, allow these meetings to be held remotely. Can we shift them a bit and do them after 10 o’clock?”claims Jean-Paul Roubin.

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