French power consumption fell 3.5% last year as the COVID-19 pandemic cut demand more than during the 2008 financial crisis, grid operator RTE said on Wednesday.
Electricity consumption fell to 460 terawatt hours (TWh), the company said.
Production fell 7% when including the reduced availability of nuclear power plants, RTE added.
Carbon emissions from the electricity sector fell nearly 9% and represented 5% of total emissions in France in 2020, it said.
The consumption drop came as large industry suffered from a sharp decline in demand during the pandemic, with certain sectors such as automotive, steel and rail transport seeing up to a 25% reduction in power consumption in 2020, the grid operator said.
Consumption in the residential sector remained stable compared to 2019, RTE said.
On the supply side, the extension of nuclear reactor maintenance times, combined with a rescheduling of shutdown dates and the closure of the Fessenheim plant led to an 11.6% reduction in power generated compared to the year before.
In contrast, wind power generation rose 17% to 39.7 TWh and eclipsed gas-fired power plants to become the third-largest source of electricity production behind nuclear and hydraulic power, RTE said.
Overall, thermal power supply in 2020 dropped 10.6% from a year earlier because of low demand and an increase in renewable production, pushing coal-fired production to its lowest since 1950, the company added.
France remained a net exporter across all of its borders despite the drop in production, and was the largest electricity exporting country in Europe, RTE said.
Reporting by Forrest Crellin; Editing by Christian Schmollinger