01 Mar 2023, 13:07
Benjamin Wehrmann

“Catastrophic” winter drought in France bodes ill for Europe’s power production in 2023

Handelsblatt / Euractiv / Clean Energy Wire

A severe winter drought in France is causing worries that the country’s energy production could be impacted throughout the year, compounding an already tense energy supply situation across Europe, business daily Handelsblatt reported. A dry spell lasting more than 32 days since the end of January has made the current winter the driest period registered in the country since full records began in 1959 and raised severe concerns about the consequences for agriculture, energy and ecosystems. In a situation described by environment minister Christophe Bechu as “catastrophic,” the government introduced a state of emergency and corresponding water saving measures at an unusually early time of the year. According to Bechu, water supply is even more threatened than in 2022, when a prolonged drought led to throttled hydro and nuclear power production and prompted strict water saving measures especially in the south of the country. Energy policy observer Jean-Marc Jancovici said the lack of rain and snow will again suppress energy generation from hydropower and nuclear plants, which need river water for cooling. The drought is also affecting neighbouring states, such as Spain, Italy or Switzerland.

France became a net energy importer in 2022 for the first time in over 40 years, as water scarcity had caused a severe reduction in hydropower production and added pressure to an already difficult situation for its ageing nuclear power plant fleet, Euractiv reported in February. Germany, itself under immense pressure due to gas shortages in the energy crisis, delivered the bulk of France’s energy imports.

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