* RTE to invest 10 bln to reinforce network by 2020
* RTE sees production gap of 1.2 GW by 2016, 2.1 GW by 2017
* Grid expects to connect offshore wind plants by 2017
By Muriel Boselli and Marion Douet
PARIS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - The security of France’s power supply is expected to weaken by 2016 due to the planned closure of old and dirty fossil fuel-fired power capacity, in line with European Union directives, power grid RTE said in a 2012 outlook released on Wednesday.
“Supply security will be ensured until 2015,” EDF’s electricity network subsidiary said, adding that the euro zone debt crisis and a shrinking industrial sector would limit increases in consumption until 2015.
“By 2016, supply security becomes more tense due to the closure of fuel and coal-fired power capacity, in line with EU directives to curb pollution,” RTE said, adding production capacity would then be 1.2 gigawatts less than expected consumption, the equivalent of a big nuclear reactor.
RTE reduced its estimate of the gap from last year’s figure of 2.7 GW, however, due to the slowdown in demand.
By 2017, the output gap is seen almost doubling to 2.1 GW due to the closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, which will not be fully compensated by the commissioning of combined cycled gas power plants and wind and solar power plants.
In line with a European directive, France will shut 15 of its oldest and dirtiest coal-fired generators by 2016, resulting in a 3.9 GW drop in production capacity between 2012 and 2016.
Another directive on industrial carbon dioxide emissions could lead to the closure by 2016 of six to eight fossil fuel-fired power generators, or 3.8 GW of capacity.
“A significant change in the production capacity is on its way, with the closure of old fossil-fuel power plants, the development of renewable energy and the closure of Fessenheim (France’s oldest nuclear power plant) in 2017,” RTE said.
Four new combined-cycle gas power plants are expected to come on stream by 2017.
As for renewable energy, RTE predicts wind power output will rise by 800 megawatts per year and solar power by 500 MW per year and expects offshore wind power plants to connect to the grid by 2017.
In the nuclear sector, the capacity that will be lost with the closure of Fessenheim will be mostly offset by the commissioning in 2016 of a new-generation nuclear reactor at Flamanville, it said.
EDF’s grid arm plans to invest some 10 billion euros ($12.6 billion) by 2020 to reinforce the network, including 2 billion euros for the connections to the grid of onshore and offshore wind power farms. ($1 = 0.7961 euros) (Reporting by Muriel Boselli; Editing by Jane Baird and Helen Massy-Beresford)