eli5: energy prices in France so high


Why energy prices are so high in France if they have nuclear plants that should produce cheap eletricity.
Higher than Poland with 0 nuclear plants, no gas and no coal.

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>Why energy prices are so high in France if they have nuclear plants that should produce cheap eletricity. Higher than Poland with 0 nuclear plants, no gas and no coal.

There are no isolated national power grids in Europe. Everything is connected, everybody buys power from everybody else. Accordingly, a transnational energy crisis affects *all* participants in the energy market, no matter who produces what.

Market prices are set by the cost of the marginal producer. That is, the person who produced that last bit of electricity needed to supply the market.

While nuclear energy hasn’t gotten any more expensive, gas and other fuels that “top off” France’s energy market have. If France only needed nuclear energy it would be completely insensitive to fluctuations in the price of other fuels. However, when you need that little bit of extra juice, you have to pay the going rate for the fuel.

Because in EU, prices are based on gas. You can be 100%nuclear, your are connected to others and have to raise your price even for your own people.
Somehow it was supposed to be a good thing but I can’t honestly remember why.

Part of the reason is that a significant number of nuclear plants are currently under maintenance (so not producing any electricity). To be precise 32 of them are disabled, which is essentially half of the French nuclear plants.

A lot of maintenances that should have happened during Covid were delayed, so now we should have had twice the amount of nuclear plants under maintenance than what was planned. But additionally, bad luck means that this time, actual issues were found during maintenance: multiple corrosion issues (and things I don’t understand enough to talk about), leading to putting other similar plants in maintenance just in case they had the same issue.

Hopefully (if nothing more goes wrong), maintenance will be over before the winter and almost every plant will be operational to avoid the worst case scenario (28 out of the 32 should have finished their maintenance by the end of the year).

So yeah, any other year, nuclear plants would have allowed for cheaper electricity (up to the whole mess that EU power grid and regulated market).

France is normally one of the top 2 exporters of electricity in Europe and got cheaper electricity than most others.

However this year things have flipped around. They are having a lot of troubles with many of their nuclear plants, forcing them to rely on other countries for their electricity needs. Those countries electricity production is heavily linked to gas price (especially when they have to produce more than normally), and is why french electricity price is much higher.

This is also one the reasons why electricity have been so expensive in general in Europe, regardless of the Ukraine war. Cables usually carrying “cheap” electricity from France to surrounding countries now carry electricity the other way.

Finally electricity price is set by the lowest amount that covers the entire grids energy needs. In other words if you have cheap nuclear power, but have to rely on expensive gas to cover everything (even if the gas is just 1% of total electricity production). Then the market price of electricity will be what the expensive gas price is. So if you notice that electricity prices drop 90% or more at certain times, then its because cheap production methods can cover the entire electricity need of the grid at that time.