France has overtaken Sweden to regain its title as the top exporter of energy in Europe, with the UK and Italy being its biggest markets.
After a period of setbacks in 2022, France is back on top as the biggest provider of energy to other countries in Europe, retaking the reins from Sweden, who temporarily surpassed L’Hexagone.
The news comes from a report put out by energy analysts EnAppSys on the European electricity market, which highlighted imports and exports during the first half of 2023. During this period, total net exports in France came to 17.6TWh (trillion-watt hours), while Sweden exported a solid 14.6TWh.
NUCLEAR AND HYDRO
The exports are the equivalent of powering of five million homes for a year. Britain and Italy were the main recipients of this power, with the former importing 8TWh and the latter slightly more at 9TWh.
“The cause for the increase of exports in France versus the previous year was an increased availability of the country’s nuclear assets,” said the director of data analysis at EnAppSys, Jean-Paul Harreman. “Although availability is still 10-15% lower than normal, the increase in capacity of between five and 10GW versus last year helped to flip the French energy balance to export again.”
As the UK’s Daily Telegraph put it, after the country’s state-backed nuclear power operator “finally fixed cracks in its aging fleet of reactors”, French producers have been able to step up production once again and become Europe’s leaders in power generation.
Nuclear assets in France experienced serious downturns in output last year when many were shut down due to maintenance issues. EDF, the country’s state-backed nuclear power operator, was able to raise the reactor’s output by 20% in 2023, adding to France’s overall energy production totals and helping the nation become the major exporter once again.
Another contributing factor, EnAppSys’s Harreman said, was a swell in hydropower production due to heavy rains in the first six months of 2023.
GERMANY FALLS, SPAIN STEPS IN
Once the third biggest exporter, Germany has now become a consumer after shutting down its last three nuclear plants this year, leaving Spain to slide into its spot.
“Spain still profits from a lower gas price for power generation and massive renewable generation,” Harreman explained. “A massive solar capacity increase in Spain (also) drove exports higher.”
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Photo source: Lukas Lehotsky, Unsplash