Cold winter threat to Europe’s power supplies

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Europe is under grave threat of blackouts this winter, particularly if the season proves to be particularly cold, according to a study by Cap Gemini.

The consultant company say that the continent’s security of supply is in danger of being compromised by the reduction of conventional power in favour of renewables.

“If we have a very cold winter, we could find ourselves in a very tense situation,” Colette Lewiner, Cap Gemini‘s global energy and utilities researcher told Bloomberg.
Europe from space
The increasing extent of renewables has reduced the “electricity system’s margin to meet peak demand in specific conditions such as cold, dark and windless days,” the report said.

The European Energy Markets Observatory report cited Belgium as an example and said more risk is forecast for nations like France from 2015.

European utilities throughout the bloc have been forced to shut natural gas-fired plants recently, citing a slump in demand, weak economic growth and competition from cheaper US coal imports. Even with such cuts in capacity, European power prices have fallen, sometimes to below zero, when surplus is generated from volatile sources such as wind and solar.

France is, according to the study, vulnerable as three Electrabel-run nuclear reactors have been closed in Belgium, which the French have come to rely on during cold spells as the country has a large number of homes equipped with electric heating.

“Without rapid and profound changes, negative wholesale electricity prices could still be observed and new gas-fired plant closures could occur,” the study said.

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