France’s 2020 electricity trade balance of 43.2 TWh was about 13 TWh lower than a year earlier. Commercial export volumes declined sharply to 77.8 TWh (-7 %), whereas import volumes rose to 34.6 TWh (+22 %). These unusual figures reflect the impact the health crisis had on generation capacity in France (especially nuclear) and the drop in power demand in Europe.
Nonetheless, France once again had a net export balance with all neighbouring countries and remained the biggest electricity exporter in Europe.
The trade balance was largely positive through June and declined in the summer. In September, France was a net importer for the month, which had not happened since November 2017. This was the first time in more than 20 years that France imported more than it exported in September, a month during which it usually has a large export surplus. One reason was a sharp decline in the availability of the nuclear fleet relative to past years. Starting in October, the balance became positive again, as numerous nuclear reactors were brought back on line after maintenance work, and temperatures were mild for the season (particularly in November).
Trading was very volatile throughout the year, ranging from a net import balance of 10.1 GW at 11:30 pm on 8 December to a 16.7 GW net export balance on 18 March at 4:30 pm. These fluctuations represent nearly 27 GW of flexibility for the French power system, and illustrate the European nature of power system management.
France imported electricity more often in 2020 than in 2019 across all its borders, especially from Spain, Great Britain and Italy.
Reading: In 2020, France used the interconnection with Spain to export electricity 62% of the time and 38% of the time for imports.