* Protests could hit Cordemais and Le Havre units
* French government to present energy plan soon
* RTE head says need more renewables to compensate for coal (Adds comments by head of grid operator, background)
By Bate Felix
PARIS: French utility EDF said on Wednesday that protests could hit its coal power plants in France until the end of June 2019, due to the legislative process that would lead to the adoption of France’s long-term energy policy.
The French government is expected to present a draft of the plan at the end of the month.
The plan will likely lay out when France will phase out its remaining coal power generators, reduce its dependence on nuclear power and boost renewable sources in its energy mix.
President Emmanuel Macron has promised to shut down France’s coal power plants by the end of 2021.
EDF said the protests could hit its Cordemais 4 and Cordemais 5 coal-fired plants, which each have 580 megawatts (MW) capacity, and the 580 MW Le Havre 4 unit until the end of the first half of 2019.
France, which depends on nuclear power for over 75 percent of its electricity needs, has shut down most of its coal power plants. Only five units with an installed capacity of around 3,000 MW are currently online.
Francois Brottes, head of French electricity grid operator RTE, reiterated separately during a wind energy conference on Wednesday that France faces supply risks if the government pushed ahead with the shutdown without adding new nuclear generators or increasing renewables capacity.
France’s oldest nuclear power plant in Fessenheim is expected to halt production by 2022, while the start-up of a new generation EPR nuclear reactor in Flamanville, has been plagued by technical delays and is now expected to start production in the second quarter of 2020.
RTE warned last November that France risks power supply shortages after 2020 if it moved ahead with plans to simultaneously shut down four 40-year-old nuclear reactors and all its coal-fired plants.
“What we now have as solar and wind power generation capacity, does not compensate for the potential loss of the coal power plants,” Brottes said.
“We are not there yet,” he added.