Power demand hits new record

Peak power usage graph from RTE

Freeze alert in 55 departments; traffic badly affected; ice-breaker used to open canal; too-cold car workers down tools

FREEZING temperatures across the vast majority of France saw the record peak of electricity consumption smashed last night, hitting 100,500MW at 19.00.

The previous peak of 96,710MW had been passed half an hour beforehand but the national grid stood up to the demand; apart from a few isolated black-outs caused by equipment failure in the Alpes-Maritimes.

Nuclear power stations still provided nearly two-thirds of the energy demand but hydro-electric dams were opened to help cope with the peak, providing 11,600MW. Gas and coal stations were also brought into use to provide 7,765MW at 19.00 and wind turbines also supplied 3,600MW. France had to import 7,350MW of electricity from Germany.

Météo France's map of the country is now orange over most of the Héxagone as it has put 55 departments on alert for the freezing conditions where temperatures varied between -10C and -15C.

Traffic has been strongly affected with black ice in many areas where snow has lain and been compacted and - in regions like Aquitaine - residents have been stuck in their homes for days as they cannot move their vehicles. School buses have been cancelled in many western departments.

The freeze has even affected the waterways and an ice-breaker was brought in to try to reopen the Canal du Nord near Cambrai.

Workers at the giant PSA automobile factory at Sochaux downed tools because of the cold and said that even though wearing extra jumpers and hats it was too cold to work. Management brought in portable heaters for the worst-affected areas and supplied thermal gear for some staff.

Graphic from Réseau de Transport d'Electricité blog

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