In the midst of the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis is taking precedence over the environmental crisis. On Thursday, the government called on the French to reduce their consumption by 10% in 2 years. On Sunday, EDF, Total and Engie even deemed it necessary to make efforts “immediately”. Their fear: a real risk of cuts this winter. Explanations.
Do you appreciate the gentle caress of patio heaters in winter? You dreamed of a gas boiler? You’re going to have to give up all that and more. The energy crisis is here! The CEO of Engie, the CEOs of TotalEnergies and EDF have even decided to temporarily bury the economic hatchet to make the French understand it. While, last Thursday, the Minister for the Ecological Transition cautiously advanced the need for a 10% drop in consumption in two years, the oil and gas “majors” drove the point home on Sunday. They issued a solemn appeal for the efforts to begin “immediately”. And for good reason, they are not sure to provide all the energy their customers will need this winter.
So what has happened since the reassuring words of Emmanuel Macron, at the beginning of June, in the anxiety-provoking context of the war in Ukraine? “There is no risk of cuts because, when there are needs, we get our supplies on the European market”, indicated the Head of State at the time. A market that includes Germany in the process of reopening its coal mines while coal consumption has fallen by 72% in France since 1990. Not very eco-responsible!
Drought and nuclear plant problems complicate the situation
But there is no question of being difficult when the drought and the multiplication of problems in nuclear power plants add crisis to crisis. Indeed, it is not only Russian oil and gas that will be missing from the European energy mix in the future. Declining flow in rivers is a problem for hydropower plants. And even worse, the state of the French nuclear fleet raises many concerns.
Called to satisfy 40% of electricity consumption in France, it has suffered from the health crisis to the point that production fell by 8.7% in 2020 compared to 2019, falling to a level that had not been observed since the late 1990s. All this has delayed maintenance operations. And now we suddenly discover corrosion where we did not expect it on 12 reactors, which were automatically shut down. It is therefore half of the 56 French reactors which are out of service for a certain time. A hard blow impossible to compensate for immediately with the major projects intended in the long term to increase the share of renewable energies in our energy mix.
Result, a single crisis since the oil crisis of 1973. And the return of the “propaganda” for the energy savings.
Sobriety or energetic drunkenness?
Thierry Bros, professor at Sciences Po, uses the term deliberately in a context of war at the gates of Europe. “Otherwise, how to explain that a G7 member country will have cuts like Lebanon or other countries in the world! he said.
Problem, “there is no happy sobriety”, according to him. The question therefore arises of the social acceptability of these savings. “They will impact our way of life for a long time because the crisis will last at least 5 years,” he said. As long as we find the right solutions. »
Faced with this challenge, Yves Marignac, the spokesperson for Negawatt, suggests reversing the assumption. For him, “there is no happy drunkenness, or in any case without a hangover”.
Sobriety issues should therefore be introduced not in a punitive but in a positive way. “To say that by going from 130 to 110 on the motorway, we will reduce road deaths and congestion, pollution, the fuel budget… it is the most immediate way to achieve popular objectives. He also evokes a reorganization of consumption while protecting the most precarious, numbering 10 million in France. And to conclude: “Whether we like it or not, energy sobriety is the most effective way to respond urgently to the crisis. If we don’t deal with this crisis in depth, it will repeat itself and get worse. »