Electricity supply at risk

Threat of power cuts over the next few days.

France's RTE (Reseau de Transport d'Electricite, equivalent to the UK's National Grid) have issued power cut warnings for the next few days. As the cold weather settles in, households and businesses are being advised to reduce electricity consumption, especially between peak hours of 17:00 and 20:00. Supply may have to be suspended from selective customers to avoid an outage over the whole Alpes Maritime and Var region.

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Monaco depends on France for its electricity, situated at one end of the high tension cable that serves all the major towns along the coast from Marseille towards Italy. Because of the sudden cold snap, there are fears that we could once again experience a total blackout, similar to the one on 3rd November 2008. For three hours, the whole region was without electricity when a storm hit a high-voltage line between Marseille and Nice. Following the outage, the French government called for better measures to secure electricity for the South East, where only 40% of power consumed is produced locally, and supply travels over just one 400,000 volt line.

The plan is to build another line to supply the Cote d'Azur region, but the 350 million euro project is not expected to be complete before 2015. After last year's power cut, an 85 million euros contingency plan was put in place to optimize the current network. Benefits are already being seen in the Var, but closer to Monaco improvements are unlikely before next autumn.

Demand for electricity in Monaco has been increasing. Between 2004 and 2008 electricity consumption in the Principality grew by 9.2%, passing from 505,174 to 551,667 MWh (megawatt hours). Consequently Monaco's electricity company SMEG has also raised the possibility of selective cuts to ensure an uninterrupted supply for health and security services. So make sure you have a torch, candles and extra blankets handy over the weekend.