Importing French Nuclear Generated Electricity

I have heard many people argue that we HAVE to import electricity from France. The fact is that the decision on whether to import or export electricity is purely financial. If it is cheaper to buy electricity from abroad this will happen.

First of all let us get the electricity imports into perspective.

This is based on half hourly demand data from National Grid ( I have averaged these over every day. My spreadsheet can be downloaded here (it is rather large – over 3Mb)

The imports meet a very small part of the demand.

Demand and electricity imports

Demand and electricity imports

You will notice the weekly cycle – we tend to use less electricity at the weekends.

Anyway let us have a closer look.

Average Daily Demand And Electricity Imports - One Month

Average Daily Demand And Electricity Imports – One Month

I have rescaled the demand so that it  is easier to compare it with the imports. You will notice that we import more when demand is less!

Maximum imports are also over the period 24-26 December again when the demand is at its lowest over the whole year.

Nuclear power plants are very inflexible and cannot respond to demand. Therefore France has a problem of too much or too little electricity. Therefore it sells its surplas electricty cheap (when demand is low) and has to rely on imports when demand is high.

No wonder the French are less keen on nuclear power than people in the UK (see here)


5 Responses to “Importing French Nuclear Generated Electricity”

  • roberto kersevan says:

    @peter lux

    “Nuclear power plants are very inflexible and cannot respond to demand. Therefore France has a problem of too much or too little electricity. Therefore it sells its surplas electricty cheap (when demand is low) and has to rely on imports when demand is high.”

    This is utter crap, Pete!

    France is the number one electricity exporter in Europe. It has a NET export surplus 365 days/year, well documented in the annual reports of the national transmission operator RTE.

    France’s 58 nuclear reactors are ALL capable of doing “load-following”, i.e. to modulate their power output to follow the load. This load-following is done EVERY DAY of the year, just go and look at the data on RTE’s web page “eco2-mix”

    … move the mouse’ cursor on the plot and you’ll read the output power.

    France ALWAYS seels electricity at a surplus, it is a very good business for them (or they wouldn’t do it just for sport, would they?).

    Try harder, Pete!!!… this is one of the worst blogs you’ve written, Pete!!

    Shame on you, Pete!


    • Pete Pete says:

      Again you seem to not have understood my post. The fact that France is a net electricity exporter to many countries is because they are selling it cheap when their output outstrips demand as can be seem from my data for the UK. The same is true for exports to Germany ( although it is important to note that Germany has been a net exporter of electricity to France.
      The nuclear plants can do a small amount of ‘load-following’ but not nearly enough to compensate for the variation in demand.
      France is now reducing its reliance on Nuclear (bill passed on Wednesday ( Areva is bankrupt and EDF have massive debts that can only be sustained by the continued support by the French state.
      If this is ‘one of the worst blogs’ I’ve written then I take that as a massive compliment.

      • robertok06 says:


        From a bogus blog applying ideologically-biased analysis all you’ll get will be bogus conclusions, pete!

        The link you’ve given says, for instance:

        “Subtract nearly 1.9 billion euros from the cost of the Energiewende in 2013. That is how much the country’s net power exports were worth.”

        … but it doesn’t report what the TOTAL AMOUNT of the cost of Energiewende to German electricity users is!… and that’s of the order of TWENTY BILLION Euros, my friend… PV alone drains 11 billion Euros or so… with that amount poor broke EDF produces and sells 200 TWh of electricity at 55 Euro/MWh… don’t forget the MATH IS NOT AN OPINION!… while German PV produces a bit more than 30 TWh/y… with the 4 darkest/coldest months Nov-through-Feb at 2% capacity factor!

        If you really want to see when/how Germany exports electricity all you have to do is to go to the Fraunhofer Institut ISE web page and look at the excellent yearly analysis… already linked that to you… where you can CLEARLY see that Germany’s exported electricity EXACTLY mirrors the combined production of the intermittent and non-dispatchable wind+PV… which either means that Germany uses all of its wind+PV and exports coal/ligniyte-made electricity to its neighbours (while keeping most of the related deaths/illnesses at home!… how smart is that Pete?) or it keeps the coal/lignite electricity for itself and exports the “surplus” wind+PV… no other rational interpretation is possible, my friend.

        The game of the spot value of the MWh on the different electricity markets is a DIFFERENT story… actually since your bogus link was written (2014) France and Germany are on the same market… so game over for the smart market players who buy here and sell there, actually doing nothing good other than for their deep pockets. The production of clean electricity is what counts, my friend, and for that France is THE leader in Europe (leaving aside the small countries who can benefit from large natural resources, like Norway, for instance).

        Nuclear power stations in France do the amount of load-following which is demanded, not one Wh less or more… where “demand” and “load” INCLUDE export, of course!…
        Again: France sells electricity to it neighbours 24h/day, every day of the year (except under special conditions, like -9C temperature spells lasting more than one week in winter, of course).

        By the way: how much load-following can PV and wind do?… how about ZERO percent?… ahahahaahah…. C’mon, get real, man!

        Try harder, Pete… this one was completely off the mark!


        P.S.: coming to poor broke AREVA… a sizeable chunk of its losses come from the wind power sector!… how about that?

        Also… AREVA is in dire straits, financially? How about these wonderful “renewable” companies?

        “Rest in Peace: The List of Deceased Solar Companies”

        and please note that this is a very old and not updated list!

        • Brian says:

          That’s misleading math.

          you averaged the cost of solar and wind and the German renewable program over many years.

          The current cost of solar is far lower than nuclear.

          • roberto kersevan says:


            Far lower when?… at what time of the day and during which seasons, and for which countries?

            Germany, just to stick to the “champion”country of the PV dream, has such a lousy solar radiation… you can see it here (click on “G opt. angle” on the lower left menu


            …that during the 4entire months, 1/3 of a full year, between November and February their PV installations generate electricity during 6-9 hours/day maximum (depending on latitude)… for a combined capacity factor (full-load hours) of LESS than 3%!…i.e. each GWp corresponds to 30 MW electric constant during 24h…. provided you can store the energy accumulated during the said 6-9 hours and use it during the remaining 15-18 hours.

            This MANDATORY storage is NEVER included in the ridiculous calculations that fans of PV carry out, like LCOE.
            Brian: you can’t possibly compare the kWh generated randomly, never at night, and in winter 1/4 or less than what’s generated in summer… PV…. with the on-demand, 24h/day electricity generated by nuclear power stations. You simply can’t.

            Just to give you an idea, based on DATA, not dreams based on laws of physics that our universe does not support, during 2014 Germany’s 36 GWp of PV and 33 GW of wind turbines COMBINED have generated LESS electricity that the 12 GW of nuclear reactors they have over there. Just look at this…


            … page 5 and 6 (I’ve averaged the installed power for PV and wind during 2014).

            How can possibly 36 GWp of panels and 33 GW of turbines, with the mandatory balancing/storage equipment produce eectricity cheaper than 12 reactors only you (and Peter) know…

            Try again, but no dreams this time, try using DATA, logic, and physical laws. One of the other blogs here deals with the concept of “power density” of the different sources…. and if you read my past comments you’ll see that PV has a power density of few W/m2, wind more or less the same… while nuclear is at KILOWATTS/m2… and in addition it is baseload, 24h/day.



            P.S.: just to stick to the future of your country, the UK, please note from the map in my first link above that the UK has an average insolation LOWER than the lousy one of Germany!… so good luck with your fancy plans… if I were you I would put my money in stocks of companies producing candles, ’cause this is the only thing that would keep light in your home for most of the year… full forward to a new Middle Ages season! 🙂

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