Nuclear: Production up slightly


Installed nuclear capacity ended the year unchanged at 63.1 GW, which represents about half of total French capacity (133 GW). As plant availability was higher than in 2017, nuclear generation rose (+3.7%, +14.06 TWh) and accounted for 71.4% of total power production in France.

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Fossil-fired thermal generation impacted by closure of last oil-fired plant


Fossil-fired thermal plants were powered up less often in 2018 due to a gradual rebound in nuclear generation together with a surge in hydropower generation. Total production in this segment declined sharply relative to the exceptionally high figure for 2017 (-26.8%).
The last oil-fired plant at Cordemais was taken out of service on 31 March 2018 and officially closed on 31 December 2018. Commissioned in 1976, the plant had a capacity of 700 MW. It was the last large oil-fired plant connected to the transmission grid in France.

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Did you know?

COis a parameter factored into the variable production costs of fossil-fired plants. In 2018, a sharp increase in the price of COallowances notably favoured gas-fired plants over coal-fired ones, as they emit less COper MWh produced.

Rising renewable electricity generation reduce reliance on fossil-fired peak plants


Renewable generation increased between 2017 and 2018. One consequence was that fossil fuel plants were fired up less often.

In the first quarter of the year, fossil-fired thermal plants were relied upon heavily to cover peak demand during winter cold spells. Wind power generation was also strong in the first quarter as the winter months were windy. Temperatures were milder than usual in January, as a result of which production decreased across all technologies.

In the third quarter, different factors came together to tighten the supply-demand balance. One was a decrease in wind power output relative to the first part of the year. At the same time, an exceptionally hot month of July drove energy demand up sharply, notably due to the use of air conditioning. Lastly, nuclear generation declined in August, as environmental regulations prevent plants from discharging water hot enough to potentially disturb the ecological balance.

These factors combined to drive up electricity production at fossil-fired thermal plants relative to the previous quarter. It should also be noted that solar radiation was strong in the latter part of the second quarter and the third quarter, resulting in particularly high solar power generation.

Production started trending upward again in the fourth quarter, as energy demand naturally increases in winter.

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