October 17, 2019 / 2:50 PM / a month ago

French power output down 4.7 GW as EDF workers protest restructuring

PARIS (Reuters) - Around a quarter of employees at French utility EDF (EDF.PA) downed tools on Thursday in protest at a plan to restructure the state-controlled company, reducing power generation at several nuclear, hydro and gas-fired plants.

FILE PHOTO: Employees of France's EDF energy company attend a demonstration against the announced "Project Hercule" restructuring plan, in Marseille, France, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

EDF said the production cut was likely to continue until the end of the national strike later on Thursday evening.

The cut in electricity production does not impact the grid or affect households, but reduced generation is costly for the heavily indebted EDF as it has to import any shortfall to supply its clients.

The data showed that electricity production was down at five nuclear reactors and two gas-fired generators.

Power generation was down at EDF-operated hydropower stations by 1.4 gigawatts (GW), with the cumulative outage due to the strike at 4.7 GW by 1413 GMT, according to EDF data.

EDF unions said in a statement that the strike had cut power generation by 7 GW across the country, with over 30% of workers joining the strike.

French power grid operator RTE’s data showed that peak electricity demand in France was expected at around 55.9 GW on Thursday. Total available generation capacity was at 54.8 GW.

The walkout is the second called by EDF’s four main unions to protest the restructuring project following a Sept. 19 demonstration, when a third of the company’s workforce went on strike and cut French power production by over 10%.

EDF workers are against plans steered by the French government to restructure and potentially split the group, with its nuclear power generation business set to be partly nationalised.

The unions, which want to see the restructuring plan abandoned, said in the statement that the French president’s office had agreed to meet them on Oct. 28, and they would jointly push for the plan to be withdrawn.

EDF has said the restructuring proposals, originally scheduled to be presented by year-end, would likely slip into next year, as it awaits broader reforms of power regulations, which need to be co-ordinated with the European Commission.

Reporting by Bate Felix and Sarah White; Editing by Sam Holmes, Alexandra Hudson and Tom Brown

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