French grid operator urges restart of EDF's coal power plants during cold snap

FILE PHOTO: The logo of the French power grid RTE (Electricity Transport Network) is seen in Marseille, February 8, 2012. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

PARIS, France (Reuters) - French electricity grid operator RTE on Wednesday called for the restart of EDF’s Cordemais coal power plants, which have been halted by a strike, as a bout of particularly cold weather looms.

Workers at French state-controlled utility EDF’s Cordemais 1,200 MW 4 and 5 units went on strike on Jan. 11, to protest against government plans to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2022.

The RTE said the shutdown of those Cordemais units, and planned and extended outages at EDF’s two 1,300 MW Flamanville nuclear reactors, had led to an unprecedented tight supply in the west of the country in the heart of winter.

“The weather conditions forecast in western France has led RTE to anticipate an increase in electricity consumption for the days of Jan. 17 and 18 in the region,” RTE said in a statement.

The grid operator said the situation requires the mobilization of other power generation units in the area, including the Cordemais power plant, to ensure the security of electricity supply.

It said it had requested that the plant should be available on Thursday and Friday.

“At any time, RTE may ask certain production plants to start or increase their production, including during the case of a strike, if this is necessary to secure electricity supply,” it added.

French and European electricity contracts for delivery next week rose sharply on Wednesday as forecasts showed consumption was expected rise due to the expected cold weather.

France, unlike neighbor Germany, depends mostly on electricity for heating during prolonged cold spells. A 1 degree drop in average temperature below seasonal level, increases power demand by around 2.5 gigawatts, according to RTE.

Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Elaine Hardcastle