France must prepare for “almost” certain power cuts this winter

France must prepare for “almost” certain power cuts this winter

“It is almost certain that we will have power cuts this winter” entrusts an enterprise risk management framework to EURACTIV. A more alarmist speech than that of the authorities who try to reassure the populations, while calling for responsibility.

Since the end of June, statements and positions on the European and French energy situation have multiplied.

On Sunday June 26, when the government had just announced that it would wait until the fall to launch its sobriety campaign, the leaders of Total, EDF and Engie called for the reduction of energy consumption in a column published in the Sunday newspaper.

Objective: to avoid threats to our social and political cohesion they declare.

For it, “all energy company executives and political leaders are hoping that the winter won’t be too cold” advance the source.

She adds that he is “pretty sure” there will be power cuts ” in the big cities “ this year and in 2023. All “European governments are preparing to have cuts” she says.

In this sense, if the French authorities seem more in reaction than in action, their tone has gone up a notch.

“The worst case scenario”

“At any time, Russia can completely interrupt its gas deliveries” declares the Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, in an interview with Le Figaro

“The worst case scenario […] exist “she says, assuring that she will be “extremely vigilant”.

Contacted by EURACTIV, RTE cannot confirm for the moment the certainties of power cuts put forward by the source. “The uncertainties linked to the current situation do not allow us to release relevant results before the fall” indicates the network manager.

Forecast studies should see the light of day during the winter, a little late, if we are to believe the will of the authorities to accelerate the sobriety programs: “We must quickly put ourselves in battle order” said Sunday (July 10) the Minister of the Economy, Bruno le Maire, in an interview with LCI.

The minister even recognizes that the possibility of a gas cut by the Russian authorities is an option “credible” that need ” to anticipate “, insofar as France faces the need for solidarity between EU countries, difficulties in diversifying its gas suppliers and in its electricity supply.

European solidarity

However, thanks to nuclear power, France is “a little better off” than its neighbours, considers the source risk manager. Nevertheless, the principle of European solidarity requires that we redistribute our electricity, a prerequisite if we want “Europe makes sense”.

In addition, half of the nuclear fleet is shut down, including 12 reactors due to corrosion. Consequently, gas, which only accounted for around 20% of French energy consumption, has been gaining ground in the energy mix for some time.

And while European neighbors have, on average, reduced their dependence on Russian gas since the start of the war, France has only increased its imports of Russian gas, confirms Phuc-Vinh Nguyen, an energy policy researcher at the from the Jacques Delors Institute, contacted by EURACTIV in mid-June 2022.

To store this gas, the European Union voted at the end of June a law to impose the filling of at least 85% of the stocks.

But France is trying to do better, since during her trip to the GRTgaz dispatching center, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that France wanted to fill its gas storage capacities 100%.

As of July 10, stocks would be 62% full within the EU, and 68% in France according to the AGSI site, which lists storage data in real time.

On the other hand, since June 28, the employees of the second largest French storage site, managed by Storengy (subsidiary of Engie), have been on strike. This was renewed on Monday (July 11).

New LNG terminal in Le Havre

To meet the need to diversify supplies, France plans to install a new LNG regasification terminal in Le Havre, as announced by Elisabeth Borne.

However, it will not be ready until 2023, while the needs are immediate.

Faced with this situation, Bruno the Mayor took advantage of his appearance on LCI to ask that we decide ” faster “lifting “a certain number of regulatory constraints”.

Especially since the period of fear of cuts could last ” several months “. That “must bring us […] to make a number of investment decisions” he demands.

In the meantime, Agnès Pannier-Runacher does not rule out the possibility “to activate” the Saint-Avold coal-fired power plant, she told RTL last Friday (July 8). And this, meven if the “long-term strategy is to emancipate the French from fossil fuels” she assures.

For it ” sobriety “ is the key, first for the administration and businesses, then for individuals.

“I refuse to ask […] to the French who have neither the financial means nor the levers to do without gas or fuel, to tighten their belts and manage” she says, while recalling that a 1 degree drop in heating in winter would reduce energy consumption by 7%.

[Davide Basso a contribué à la rédaction de cet article]

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