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Europe’s heat wave starts to hamstring its energy infrastructure

People sit covering their heads from the sun after a scaled down version of the Changing of the Guard ceremony took place outside Buckingham Palace, during hot weather in London, Monday, July 18, 2022.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Europe’s energy infrastructure is starting to strain under the extreme heat that’s blanketing the continent.

Power stations are operating at low levels to keep temperatures in check, while natural gas pipelines are limiting flows -- just as demand for energy to cool homes and offices rises.

Typically, electricity plants undergo maintenance shutdowns during the summer months when demand falls, but it’s not so simple this year. With Europe desperately short of gas and power prices near record-highs, every bit of available generation capacity is valuable.

In France, which gets about two-thirds of its power from nuclear plants, some reactors have received temporary waivers of water-discharge rules, allowing them to release water used to cool the facilities into the surrounding waterways despite rising river temperatures.


Read more: French Nuclear Cuts Extend to Next Week as Temperatures Soar

Gas pipelines are also affected, with the Interconnector linking Britain and Belgium reducing flows for a third day on Tuesday because of high temperatures. Meanwhile Norway’s grid manager, Gassco AS, reported lower North Sea gas supply into the UK’s St. Fergus terminal, citing the hot weather.

In Germany, the Rhine River -- a key route to deliver coal from major ports in the Netherlands and Belgium -- is at its lowest level in years. That means some power plants are not getting enough fuel, threatening to derail the country’s plan to build up stockpiles ahead of winter.

Read more: Heat Wave Is Pushing Europe’s Energy System to the Limit

Separately, German utility Uniper SE has brought forward a stoppage of its Datteln-4 coal-power plant, previously planned for October, to July. The move will ensure it’s “well prepared for the start of the upcoming heating period” in winter, the company said. The facility is scheduled to be back online on Aug. 1.

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