How Europe’s Electric Grid Is Coping With the Heat

It may be a small consolation for those sweltering in the heat wave sweeping through southern Europe, but grids in regional countries such as Italy and Spain have so far met increased demand for electricity for air conditioning without extreme price spikes. are responding to

In a way, Europe has benefited from last year’s measures, which pushed electricity prices to record levels as natural gas prices surged due to supply restrictions from Russia. Europe’s grid was plagued with other problems, including mechanical problems that shut down a number of French nuclear power plants.

Analysts say this experience, and the fact that power prices remain so much higher than previously thought to be normal, are helping to curb power demand despite the high temperatures. .

Incentives to encourage the use of power plants that burn highly polluting coal and oil are also maintained, measures introduced last year to reduce natural gas consumption. “This is a really perverted situation,” said Marco Alvera, CEO of TES, a company that plans to import hydrogen to Europe for use as a clean fuel.

The increasing amount of solar power on the grid, especially in Spain, is also helping to strengthen electricity supply and keep prices down. Solar power production peaks at noon, when the need for sunlight and air conditioning is greatest. Italy is experiencing a relatively modest rise in prices in the afternoon as the sun fades and people head home to turn up their air conditioners.

At the same time, French nuclear power plants and other conventional power generation in Europe had fewer problems than last year and more electricity was available.

“The French nuclear situation has improved significantly since last year,” said Luca Urbanucci, European Union electricity market analyst at data analytics firm ICIS.

Europe’s grid also has interconnecting cables, allowing countries with low heat stress, such as the UK, Norway and Switzerland, to supply power to their neighbors.

Spain, in particular, has benefited from investments in solar panels, pumping out about 20% more solar power than it did in the summer of 2022.

“For this reason, we are not seeing as extreme a price hike as we had expected,” said Stefan Konstantinov, senior energy economist at ICIS.

Despite the heat wave, Spain’s natural gas consumption is down significantly from last year.

Of course, if the expected heat wave continues, the energy system could come under further pressure. For example, a nuclear power plant may be forced to shut down because the water level in a river used for cooling drops too low or the water itself heats up too much.

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