France may impose a two-year halt on power exports to Italy as state-controlled Electricite de France SA battles dwindling output from its nuclear plants, aggravating a deepening energy crisis as Europe moves into winter.
Italy is working on plans to compensate for any cut in supply after receiving a written notification about the possible halt, a spokeswoman for the Italian ministry of energy transition said on Saturday, confirming a report by newspaper La Repubblica.
A spokesman for EDF denied the report, saying the French state-controlled utility “hasn’t sent a letter” to the Italian authorities. A spokeswoman for French power grid operator RTE, which is 50.1% owned by EDF but whose statutes ensure its independence, had no immediate comment. France’s finance ministry declined to comment.
Nuclear power output by EDF is set to fall to the lowest in more than three decades as it grapples with maintenance for its aging plants, turning France, traditionally Europe’s biggest electricity exporting country, into a net importer. The shortages are exacerbating an energy crunch across Europe after Russia cut its gas supplies to the continent.
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As Europe heads into a difficult winter, the power shortages are testing the solidarity between countries. France’s potential power cut to its neighbor signals that national interest may prevail if the crisis intensifies.
Earlier this month, Italy said it was targeting a reduction in natural gas consumption this winter by increasing the use of coal, turning down heating across the country, and pushing to change consumer behavior.
Italy imports about 13% of its power, according to national operator Terna. France accounts for about 5% of the country’s annual consumption.
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(Adds comment from EDF, no comment from French finance ministry in third paragraph.)