October 19, 2016 / 11:35 AM / in a year

UPDATE 1-French spot power hits four-year high on nuclear worry

* Traders say need clarity on outages from EDF

* November, December contracts edges higher

* EDF to tests 5 reactors within three months (Merging French and German price moves, adds details, traders quotes, background)

By Vera Eckert and Bate Felix

FRANKFURT/PARIS Oct 19 (Reuters) - The French day-ahead power contract price on Wednesday jumped to its highest in four years on concerns that nuclear power supply from utility EDF will lag rising demand as the weather gets colder in coming weeks.

Persistent doubts over EDF’s ability to meet French and wider European electricity demand for winter has roiled markets, pushing spot and forward power prices to new highs.

French base load price for Thursday delivery was at 93 euros ($102.26) a megawatt hour (MWh) at 1010 GMT, up 21 euros from Tuesday’s close after briefly touching 100 euros/MWh in early trade, the highest since February 2012.

“There are concerns as to how France will cope if it turns really cold. Nuclear availability will be relatively low, hydro power supplies are already low and output in surrounding countries is tight,” a London-based trader said, adding that capacity at coal and fuel power stations was also low.

Traders also said lack of clarity on EDF’s available nuclear supply for the days, weeks and months ahead was contributing to market anxiety.

EDF has assured it has enough production to meet winter demand but news on Tuesday that French nuclear safety regulator ASN has demanded additional tests on 5 reactors be brought forward sparked another round of price rises.

Traders, however, said EDF has not given a detailed schedule for when the reactors will go offline and when they will resume production and its available capacity to meet demand.

“It is a question of whether there is enough power, but the French producer is keeping its cards to its chest,” a Germany-based trader said. “Clarity is needed.”

EDF said on Tuesday it planned to schedule some of the outages in November and December but expected most of its rectors to resume production by January.

News of further outages in November and December also pushed the price of power contracts for those months higher, with the November contract up 5.5 euros or 7.8 percent to 76 euros/MWh, while the December contract gained nearly 8 percent to 77.45 euros/MWh.

“People fear that some of the outages could be extended and we could experience further tight supply in the weeks ahead,” another trader said, adding that some clear dates and information about nuclear reactors that have successfully passed the tests would be welcome.

“All the talk so far is hopes, expectations and intentions,” the trader said.

France, a net power exporter in Europe, depends on nuclear power for over 75 percent of its electricity needs.

Currently, 20 out its 58 French nuclear reactors are completely out for planned or statutory maintenance outages for various periods ranging from a couple of days to several months.

The jump in French prices is also exerting an upward pull on the broader European energy complex.

Germany’s benchmark power contract for delivery in 2017 on Wednesday jumped to the highest level in 22 months .

The contract, at 33 euros ($36.25) a megawatt hour, had last traded at this level in mid-December 2014. ($1 = 0.9100 euros) (Additional reporting by Oleg Vukmanovic; Editing by Louise Heavens and William Hardy)

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