Monday, 24 October 2016

Cold Winter Could Spell Disaster for EU's energy policy

There are significant signs that a cold winter is on the way for Northern Europe. The Polar Vortex is notably very weak for this time of the year. This means a weak jetstream, eastern winds and a cold winter. During the previous two winters we had a strong jetstream and strong westerlies, which explains why they were so mild. The Polar Vortex looked very different at this time of the year to what it looks like now i.e. much stronger. While Europe had mild winters, America had cold severe winters :

Coupled with the current weak Polar Vortex is a projected negative Atlantic Oscillation. There were also signs of a cold winter back in August when heavy snow fell in Germany to an extent not seen since 2009.

The problem for Europe in the event of a severe winter is inadequate generation capacity. France will be shutting down five of its nuclear reactors over the coming months.  This creates a big problem because other countries that have invested heavily in renewables are dependent on French imports. 

Comparing the French grid for October 2016 Vs October 2015 shows up a change in imports / exports profile :

You can see that last year, France was exporting large amounts of power whereas this year it is exporting much less and indeed importing half of the time. Belgium has also been having problems with their nuclear fleet recently. Spain which was importing up to 2GW this time last year is now exporting most of the time. Germany are also full time net exporters. This can change if output from renewables declines in these countries.

A cold winter accompanied by high pressure and low winds will put the Energy Union to the ultimate test.