Nuclear power plants fail: How France drives up the price of electricity in Germany

Because nuclear power plants fail, France buys massive amounts of electricity.

Nuclear power plants fail: How France drives up the price of electricity in Germany

Because nuclear power plants fail, France buys massive amounts of electricity. In Germany, consumers feel the higher prices - but not in France.

In Germany, electricity prices are going through the roof. They reach dizzying heights on the wholesale market. One of the main reasons: France. The neighboring country relies on nuclear power plants for its power supply and is currently having massive problems with the reactors. The result: France not only produces less electricity, it even has to import electricity - unusual for a country that traditionally exports a lot of nuclear power.

The falling supply and the simultaneous increase in demand in France are driving up prices on the wholesale market and are reflected in the end customers with a delay. Since the price they pay consists largely of surcharges and taxes, the effects remain limited. Nevertheless: According to the comparison portal Verivox, one kilowatt hour of electricity in an average household in Germany now costs 42 cents - and thus 28 percent more than a year ago.

There are several price drivers for electricity. One of them is the price of natural gas, which has risen sharply as a result of Russian supply cuts. Gas is also used to generate electricity. Another is the nuclear nation France, for which expensive electricity is currently being produced in Germany.

More than half of the 56 nuclear power plants there have been shut down. This is not only due to the week-long regular maintenance work that takes place in the summer. This year there are more than usual because some have been postponed due to the corona pandemic. In addition, corrosion damage was discovered in the emergency cooling system of aging reactors, which must be repaired.

The situation is made worse by the drought in France. It ensures that not all nuclear power plants that are in operation can produce their full output. The rivers from which the kilns get their cooling have a low water level. They are therefore heated more quickly by the returned cooling water. However, this must not exceed a certain temperature in order to protect the flora and fauna of the river. In France, this temperature is fixed for each nuclear power plant, the regulations have been partially relaxed in view of the energy circles.

France covers almost two thirds of its electricity needs with nuclear power. Since the country relies heavily on electricity for heating, fears are growing that electricity could become scarce in Europe. That's why prices are really going crazy on the wholesale market. "It is obvious that a lot of electricity is currently being bought from the European market, especially from France," says Mirko Schlossarczyk, partner at the energy consulting company Enervis, in an interview with "Some suppliers are under extreme pressure. The French lack electricity from their nuclear power plants. In order to meet their delivery obligations, they have to stock up - whatever the cost."

Schlossarczyk considers it unlikely that there will actually be a power shortage in the EU. "The situation at French nuclear power plants should ease up again in the coming months, as should the supply of hydropower," says the energy expert. The extreme rashes are just a snapshot.

Ironically, French consumers hardly feel the price explosion, but German consumers do. Because in the neighboring country, the government under President Emmanuel Macron has capped prices until at least the end of the year. As a result, French customers have no incentive to save electricity.

This is a problem for the highly indebted nuclear company EDF. The company has to buy a lot of electricity abroad at record prices and is not allowed to pass the costs on to customers because of the price cap. In addition, the government has obliged EDF to sell a certain amount of nuclear power to its competitors at a price that is also fixed. This should also protect the customers of these suppliers from high electricity prices. The group is therefore demanding compensation of more than eight billion euros from the French state.