France braces for power demand surge driven by EVs, alternative fuels

FILE PHOTO: Pylons of high-tension electricity power lines are pictured near Villers-la-Montagne in France, September, 3, 2022. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - Electric vehicles and other technology to cut emissions is likely to drive a surge in French power demand by 2035, meaning France will need to maintain its existing nuclear capacity, grid operator RTE said on Wednesday.

The European Union in March approved a law to end sales of new C02-emitting cars in 2035.

To meet that goal, electricity is needed both to power the electric vehicles (EVs) and the battery plants automakers need to produce them. Production of synthetic aviation fuel also relies heavily on power.

As a result, electricity use is likely to rise by nearly 10 terawatt-hours (TWh) per year on average over the next decade to between 580 and 640 TWh in 2035, the RTE climate and energy report said.

That compares with 452.8 TWh in 2022, which was a crisis year as Europe sought to curb its energy demand to cope with the impact of the Ukraine war and France's nuclear fleet was subject to an unusually high level of maintenance, meaning its energy output sank to a 34-year low.

Demand has stayed below pre-pandemic levels and it is only from 2025 at the earliest that the report predicts demand growth will match levels last experienced in the 1980s when a fleet of new nuclear capacity was built to cope.

"This highlights the magnitude of the challenge facing the French electricity system," the report said.

Over the decade to 2035, RTE projects an average of 350 TWh of nuclear power availability per year.

A new Flammanville 3 reactor, expected to start generating at the end of the year provided there are no further delays, will add 10 TWh per year.

But the report says France will need the country's other reactors to have their lifespan extended to 60 years, something safety watchdog ASN is considering.

Nuclear energy has typically supplied around 70% of France's supply and will remain dominant, but renewable supplies will also increase. New onshore wind and solar power are expected to dominate renewable growth until 2030. Offshore wind power is expected to overtake as the leading source of growth between 2030 and 2035.

(Reporting by Forrest Crellin; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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