As the coronavirus pandemic bites, EDF lowers its nuclear output projections for 2020

EDF’s Belleville nuclear power plant in France.

Mehmet Acar | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

In the latest example of how the Covid-19 pandemic is impacting the energy sector, French utility EDF said Thursday that it was sharply revising down its projected nuclear output for this year.

In a statement, the company said it expected its nuclear output for 2020 to be “in the region of” 300 terawatt hours (TWh) — a steep downwards revision to the 375-390 TWh previously forecast.

The company explained that in response to the ongoing public-health crisis it had made adjustments to all of its activities in order to protect workers at its nuclear power plants.

Work slated to be carried out during maintenance outages had been “significantly affected,” it said, which had in turn lowered output capacity.

“Furthermore, the economic slow-down has brought about a drop in electricity consumption, which could potentially fall by 20% compared to usual levels, thereby resulting in reduced nuclear output,” EDF said.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, France has reported 134,598 cases of Covid-19, and 17,188 people have died.

Looking ahead, EDF added that it was working with French grid operator RTE to provide a “continuous supply of power” this winter, and said that a number of reactors “may have to be taken off line this coming summer and autumn in order to save fuel on these power plants.”

Given the above, the firm said output was expected to be between 330 to 360 TWh in 2021 and 2022. Shares of EDF were down around 5% on Thursday. Earlier this week, the company withdrew all of its financial targets for 2020 and 2021. 

Globally, EDF operates 73 nuclear reactors, with 58 of these located in France. 

As a country, France is still heavily reliant on nuclear power. In 2018, its nuclear power production rose 3.7% to 393.2 TWh — accounting for more than 70% of the country’s total energy generation — according to figures from RTE.

‘Clean energy’ job losses

It’s not just France that is facing challenges as a result of Covid-19 — the energy sector globally is too.

In the U.S., for instance, experts claimed Wednesday that over 100,000 people working in the U.S. “clean energy” sector lost their jobs in March, as the industry — which covers renewables and energy storage among others — battled with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The analysis of Department of Labor data, released by Environmental Entrepreneurs, the American Council on Renewable Energy, E4TheFuture and BW Research Partnership, paints a challenging picture for the industry.

It showed that, last month, 106,472 people working in clean energy roles filed for unemployment benefits.

Looking ahead, the analysis projects that over 500,000 people working in clean energy — 15% of the sector’s workforce — will lose their jobs in the coming months unless “quick and substantive action” to support the industry is taken by both the administration of President Donald Trump and Congress.

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