Why does France supply gas to Germany? We explain the system of interaction with our European neighbors
is a symbol “European solidarity” to overcome the energy crisis. For the first time, France started sending gas directly to Germany on October 13. The supplies follow a mutual aid agreement formalized in early September between Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, whose country is suffering from a decline in Russian gas exports to Europe.
Berlin, in turn, has committed to providing more electricity to France, which suffers the least from the effects of nuclear production. Current energy exchanges within Europe have been boosted this year due to strong supply tensions linked to the war in Ukraine. How does this system work? How does France benefit from this? Explanations.
Why are European countries interconnected?
As the Commission for Energy Regulation (CRE) explains, European countries exchange gas and electricity through transmission lines, interconnectors that connect networks and support commercial energy operations. In the electricity grid, for example, more than 400 interconnections connect European states. They are important to ensure the security of energy supply, during a geopolitical crisis or when a country faces a technical incident in its national production.
States due to mutual relations they can also exchange energy permanently in the European market according to their needs. “Energy consumption profiles are different in the countries of the European Union”Nicolas Goldberg, an energy expert at Columbus Consulting, recalls.
This observation is especially true for electricity. During the year, Spain consumes more electricity in summer than in winter, for example. It is therefore the opposite for France, which exports to its Spanish neighbor during the summer. “This allows us to make our nuclear fleet profitable even when national consumption is low.”, emphasizes Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, director of the European program of the Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE). According to the expert, this system “win-win” it is therefore also beneficial for French energy suppliers such as EDF, which can sell part of the output abroad.
In return, France can rely on the production of its neighbors to meet its needs during the coldest months. These streams also aim to respond to changes in energy consumption within the same day. “If it wasn’t for this system of interaction, we would be a constant load shedding,” is evaluated Thomas Pellerin-Carlin.
Which European countries does France exchange energy with?
France has about 50 border crossings with the UK, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg) allowing for the exchange of electricity. Until last year, France was Europe’s leading net electricity exporter.
In 2021, the country delivered more electricity (87.1 terawatt/hour) to its neighbors than it imported (44 TWh). According to the balance sheet of the operator of the French electricity transmission network (RTE). The main exports were to Switzerland (21.7 TWt/h), Great Britain (19.7 TWt/h) and Italy (18.8 TWt/h). In contrast, France mainly purchased its electricity from Germany and the Benelux area (22.2 TWh) and Spain (8.7 TWh).
The situation with gas is quite the opposite since France “imports almost all of the gas consumed in its territory”, Indicates the CRE Report on French interactions. In 2020, about one-third of imports came from Norway via the interconnection located in Dunkirk (North). According to the information of the Ministry of Ecological Transition. This interconnection also allows gas to be purchased from non-European countries, notably Russia (17% of pre-war imports) or Algeria (8% of French imports). “Gas connection with Spain is a supply route for Algerian gas to reach France”Thomas Pellerin-Carlin says.
How is the gas supply to Germany a turning point?
This is the first time that France will deliver gas directly to Germany. “Until now, we used to send gas to our neighbor via Belgium”, recalled Thierry Found, CEO of GRTgaz, manager of the French gas transmission network, on Thursday. Work was needed to reroute traffic at the interchange point on the French-German border at Obergeilbach (Moselle), intended to operate from Germany to France.
These deliveries should help the neighbor across the Rhine, It was decided by Moscow in the context of the war in Ukraine to cope with the drop in supplies, which are heavily dependent on Russian gas. However, France currently has more gas than Germany because it receives large revenues from liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Norway and especially from the United States. These supplies also allowed France to fully replenish its reserves for the winter.
In concrete terms, the amount of gas sold to Berlin through this link can reach a maximum of 100 gigawatt hours per day. In order of magnitude, this is equivalent to the power of four nuclear units, or 10% of what France buys in LNG every day at its four LNG terminals, which, according to GRTGaz, can serve Germany all winter. .
Berlin, in turn, undertook to supply electricity to France. weakened by nuclear production at its lowest level. Currently, about thirty of the 56 French reactors are still shut down due to maintenance, control or corrosion problems.
“France has turned from a net exporter of electricity to a net importer of electricity.”Thomas Pellerin-Carlin
German deliveries are therefore intended to compensate for the lack of electricity in situations where consumption is highest, who put hexagonal network under strong pressure.
What is “European solidarity” mentioned by Emmanuel Macron?
With this political agreement between Berlin and Paris, “In the coming weeks and months we will contribute to European solidarity in gas and benefit from European solidarity in electricity”, launched Emmanuel Macron after his meeting with Olaf Scholz in early September. This statement comes from the agreement signed between European heads of state on July 26. “principle of non-essential solidarity” Between countries.
This “spirit of solidarity” It has already been reflected in the Lisbon Treaty of 2007 “European directives and regulations”, exactly Thomas Pellerin-Carlin. It aims to continue cooperation, especially in the European market when there is a voltage in the gas or electricity supply. because “in a crisis, there may be political temptations to return to national controls and export bans,” reminds the expert.
It is the solidarity of energy that prompted the 27 to agree to the principle of reduction this summer. “volunteer” 15% of natural gas consumption by March 2023. However, the agreement stipulates that this goal may be mandatory. assuming “Risk of severe gas shortage” Where “Extremely High Demand”.
For experts interviewed by Franceinfo, this solidarity in terms of energy is essential for such interdependent countries. “SIf ever the German industry collapses due to lack of gas, the first victim will be Germany, and the second will be France.”Thomas Pellerin-Carlin mentions that Berlin is “Both the best customer and the best supplier in the French industry”. Analysis shared by Nicolas Goldberg: “SIf everyone thinks about their own national interests, we will all be losers in the end.”