March 2017 was the hottest on record in 117 years in France, the RTE French electricity grid operator said on Thursday, adding that the warm weather led to a sharp fall in power consumption by 9.4 percent compared with the same month a year ago. The average temperature was 2 degrees Celsius above the seasonal norm during the month, RTE said in its monthly report. Electricity production from nuclear reactors, which account for more than 75 percent of French electricity needs, fell 7.8 percent compared with March 2016, RTE said. “For the 11th consecutive month, nuclear generation remained below the level recorded for the same period in the previous year,” it said without giving reasons for the output fall.
Hydro power generation fell 5.7 percent due to record low reservoir levels. Power from renewable wind and solar sources grew during the month, with a new record for instant solar and wind generation set on March 25 at 12 gigawatts (GW). Solar power generation also rose 9.8 percent year-on-year in March. France was a net power exporter during the month, RTE said, with a record of over 17 GW of net export balance on March 30. RTE said wholesale electricity prices were falling in Europe due to lower demand at the start of spring, and due to sustained renewable generation and the fall in gas and coal prices. (Reporting by Bate Felix; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)