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By Bate Felix
PARIS, Nov 15 (Reuters) - France has enough power supply for the winter but needs to be vigilant if there is a cold spell from mid-January through to the end of February when supply is expected to be tight due to nuclear outages, grid operator RTE said on Thursday.
RTE said in its winter and medium-term outlook that up to 2020, electricity demand and supply is expected to be balanced but without any margin, due to the expected shutdown of some thermal power generation units.
RTE’s director of operations Jean-Paul Roubin said analysis showed that under normal weather conditions, demand was expected to remain stable with peak demand seen at around 85 gigawatts (GW), the same level as last winter.
Roubin, speaking at a news conference, said French nuclear power supply, which accounts for over 75 percent of its electricity needs, was expected to increase this winter compared with last year due to fewer outages, while hydro power supply was also expected to be stable.
But between mid-January and the end of February supply could be tight if there is a prolonged cold spell because EDF has planned maintenance outages at five nuclear reactors. Two reactors could be halted for several weeks.
This situation could lead to after market measures including calls to industrial users and consumers to curb consumption, increased imports from neighbours and lowering voltage on the network.
After winter 2020, France will have enough supply to potentially allow it to gradually shut down five coal power units in Cordemais, Havre, Gardanne and Saint-Avold, and also the Fessenheim nuclear power plant under certain conditions. (Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta/Inti Landauro/Jane Merriman)