Why does France supply gas to Germany? We explain the structure of relations with our European neighbours

It is a symbol “European Unity” To overcome the energy crisis. For the first time, France began sending gas directly to Germany on Thursday, October 13. The deliveries implement a mutual assistance agreement formalized between Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholes in early September.

Berlin, for its part, has pledged to provide more electricity to France, which will suffer the effects of much less nuclear power. Current energy exchanges within Europe have been strengthened this year due to strong supply tensions linked to the Ukraine war. How does this system work? What benefits does France get from this? Explanations.

Why are European countries interconnected?

European countries exchange gas and electricity through interconnectors The Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE) explains. In an electrical network, for example, More than 400 connections connect European countries with each other. They are necessary to ensure the security of energy supply during geopolitical crisis or when a country faces a technical incident in its national production.

Thanks for the contacts, States They can permanently exchange energy according to their needs in the European market. “Energy consumption profiles differ across EU countries”Nicholas Goldberg, an energy expert at Columbus Consulting, recalls.

This observation is especially true for electricity. Over the course of a year, Spain, for example, uses more electricity in summer than in winter. It is the opposite of France, and therefore exports to its Spanish neighbors during the summer. “This makes it possible to make our nuclear fleet profitable, even if national consumption is low.”, emphasizes Thomas Pellerin-Carlin, director of the Europe Program at the Institute for Climate Economics (I4CE). According to the expert, this system “Win-Win” So it also benefits French energy suppliers like EDF, who can sell part of their production abroad.

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In return, France can rely on the production of its neighbors to meet its needs during the colder months. These flows aim to respond to variations in energy consumption during the same day. “Without this interconnection system, there would be permanent load shedding,” Appreciated Thomas Bellerin-Carlin.

With which European countries does France exchange energy?

France has about 50 cross-border connections that allow it to exchange electricity with Great Britain, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, Germany and the Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg). Until last year, France was Europe’s leading net exporter of electricity.

In 2021, the country supplied more electricity to its neighbors (87.1 terawatt hours) than it imported (44 TWh), According to the balance sheet of the operator of the French electricity transmission network (RTE).. The main exporters are Switzerland (21.7 TWh), Great Britain (19.7 TWh) and Italy (18.8 TWh). In contrast, France received electricity mainly from Germany and the Benelux (22.2 TWh) and from Spain (8.7 TWh).

As for gas, the situation is quite the opposite from France “imports all the gas consumed in its territory”, Pointing to the CRE Report on French Relations. In 2020, one-third of imports came from Norway, the interconnector located in Dunkirk (North). According to data from the Ministry of Environmental Change. These interconnections make it possible to obtain gas from non-European countries, especially Russia (17% of imports before the start of the war) or Algeria (8% of French imports). “The gas connection with Spain is a supply line so that Algerian gas can come to France”Thomas Pellerin-Carlin says.

How is the gas supply to Germany a turning point?

This is the first time that France supplies gas directly to Germany. Until now, we sent gas to our neighbors via Belgium., recalled Thursday to Thierry Found, CEO of GRTgaz, the manager of the French gas transmission network. Work was required to change the direction of traffic at the interconnection at Obergeilbach (Moselle) on the Franco-German border, which was designed to operate from Germany to France.

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These deliveries were to help neighbors across the Rhine, In the context of the war in Ukraine, Russia is highly dependent on gas to cope with a drop in supplies determined by Moscow. However, France currently has more gas than Germany because it benefits from large inflows from Norway and liquefied natural gas (LNG), particularly from the United States. These distributions are also enabled France to fully replenish its stocks for the winter.

Concretely, the volume of gas sold to Berlin via this link will reach a maximum of 100 GWh per day. In terms of volume, this corresponds to the power of four nuclear units, or the equivalent of 10% of what France receives each day in LNG at its four LNG terminals, which GRTGaz estimates could serve Germany throughout the winter. .

For its part, Berlin undertook the supply of electricity to France. Weakened by very low nuclear production. Currently, of the 56 French reactors, thirty are still closed for reasons of maintenance, control or corrosion problems.

“France has gone from being a net exporter of electricity to a net importer of electricity.”

Thomas Bellerin-Carlin

Energy expert

German supplies are intended to compensate for power shortages during peak consumption situations, Who put Hexagonal network under strong stress.

What does Emmanuel Macron mean by “European unity”?

With this political agreement between Berlin and Paris, “We will contribute to European unity in gas and benefit from European unity in electricity in the coming weeks and months.”, launched Emmanuel Macron in early September after a meeting with Olaf Scholes. From this statement follows The agreement was signed between European leaders on July 26It reminds “The Inescapable Principle of Unity” between countries.

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Cet sense of unity” already included in the agreement Lisbon 2007. It was supplemented by many others “European Directives and Regulations”, Accurate Thomas Bellerin-Carlin. It specifically aims to maintain cooperation in the European market In case of gas or electricity supply tensions. Because “In a crisis situation, there may be political incentives to return to national restrictions and export bans”, Reminiscent of an expert.

Energy unity prompted twenty-seven people to adopt a curtailment policy this summer. “volunteer” 15% of natural gas consumption till March 2023. However, the agreement provides that this intention may be binding Assuming “Significant Risk of Gas Shortages” Or “Exceptionally High Demand”.

For experts interviewed by franceinfo, this unity in terms of energy is necessary for the interdependent countries. “SIf German industry ever collapses due to gas shortages, the first casualty will be Germany and the second casualty.Thomas Pellerin-Carlin mentions that he remembers Berlin “Both the best customer and the best supplier in French industry”. An analysis shared by Nicholas Goldberg: “SIf everyone considers their own national interests, we will all lose in the end.”

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