France's electricity supply outlook is "much more favourable" going into the autumn and winter than it was in 2022 and spot prices are currently "significantly lower" than in neighbouring countries, the RTE national grid operator said on Wednesday.

Even in the event of a heatwave and drought that lowers the availability of nuclear power this summer, sufficient supply could be ensured through imports, RTE said.

Current spot market prices are also "significantly lower" than those in neighboring countries like Germany, Britain and Italy, reflecting a comfortable supply-demand balance for the next several months, the operator added.

The nuclear sector is expected to see improvements in available output in the winter, with around 40-45 gigawatts (GW) of production expected daily in December and 45-50 GW in January, which would put supply in line with figures recorded in 2021, they said.

French nuclear availability dropped to its lowest level in 34 years in 2022 after stress corrosion problems were discovered, forcing the operator to shut down an unprecedented number of reactors.

Due to the improved nuclear output, France is expected to return to its status as a net exporter in 2023 after being a net importer last year for the first time since 1980, the head of RTE said.

Controlling demand will still be essential to preserve hydroelectric stocks that will be necessary for the winter, RTE added.

Future contract prices for the winter are lower than the levels recorded last year, but currently include a risk premium that puts them above the cost of thermal production and above prices in neighbouring countries. (Reporting by Forrest Crellin and Benjamin Mallet; Editing by Benoit Van Overstraeten, Conor Humphries and David Evans)