* France faces lowest nuclear availability in 10 years
* Very cold snaps in Dec, Jan in France could raise risks
* UK has extra capacity to make up for lower imports
* Belgium system should be balanced
By Nina Chestney
LONDON, Nov 29 Europe will be able to meet
higher-than-normal electricity demand this winter even if
nuclear safety checks tighten France's power supply further, the
ENTSO-E European power grid lobby said on Tuesday.
France faces its lowest level of nuclear power availability
in 10 years, five gigawatts (GW) below last winter's levels,
because several reactors have been take offline for safety
checks that will see some not return to operation until the end
of the year.
French nuclear safety regulator ASN has ordered EDF
to carry out tests on 12 nuclear reactors in a metal resilience
probe related to high carbon concentrations in their steam
Concerns have risen over recent months that France, which
depends on nuclear power for more than 75 percent of its
electricity, could struggle to meet peak winter power demand,
causing spikes in French and other European wholesale power
However, Europe can still meet demand, ENTSO-E said in its
annual winter outlook report.
"Even if the situation in France will be tense, Europe has
sufficient generation to meet normal and severe demand
conditions in the winter of 2016/2017," the report said.
France's grid operator has said it will boost power imports.
It could also pay some industrial customers to reduce energy
consumption and might have to impose short, rolling blackouts in
some parts of the country.
However, the French power system is very sensitive to
weather conditions. A drop in average temperature by 1 degree
Celsius leads to a load increase of 2.4 GW, ENTSO-E said.
"Risk can occur in the event of cold waves at least 3
degrees Celsius below normal temperatures in December and 5
degrees below normal temperatures in January," ENTSO-E said.
During certain weeks, countries such as Czech Republic,
Ireland, Poland, Romania and Slovenia might need to export
excess renewable energy to neighbouring countries.
Germany and Denmark would also need to export power
The ability of Britain to meet power demand might be
impacted by the situation in France. Usually reliant on France
for power imports, Britain will need high imports from all
neighbouring countries, ENTSO-E said.
However, under extreme circumstances, Britain can turn to
additional capacity from gas plants, pumped-storage plants and
short-term storage to cover any deficit from imports.
Belgium should have a balanced system this winter thanks to
the return from maintenance of nuclear plants Doel 3 and Tihange
2 last year.
"However, in a severe winter situation, Belgium is still
dependent on imports to cover demand," the report said.
ENTSO-E represents transmission system operators in 34
(Additional reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel in Brussels;
editing by Jason Neely)