This is the watchword: energy saving. For several weeks, the government has been repeating this imperative, both to business leaders brought together by Medef on August 29 and to French households, summoned to ” eco-gestures ».
A strategy that seems to pay off in view of the figures put forward this Friday by the general manager of Engie, Catherine MacGregor. According to her, the gas consumption of individuals in France has fallen ” about 4 to 5%” since the war in Ukraine. ” I am rather very encouraged when I look at the base of my particular clients. Today, energy consumption has dropped by around 4 to 5%. (…) We are already seeing signs of demand where people are starting to pay attention, and that is very encouraging”, declared the owner of the first gas supplier in France, ex-GDF Suez, on the antenna of the radio RTL. However, it did not specify the exact periods of comparison for this drop in consumption.
However, she called on the public authorities ” to continue to target aid, in particular to our precarious customers”. The main device to avoid causing household bills to soar, the ” tariff shield » should end at the end of the year to make way for more targeted measures. “The work is in progress […] We are not going to expose the most modest French people to reckless increases in the price of energy. […] But we need to move from general mechanisms to more targeted mechanisms”assured Elisabeth Borne last July.
Companies forced to stop production
Regarding businesses, Catherine Macgregor also observed a drop in demand, sometimes dictated by the need to safeguard the business: ” a certain amount of this drop, it is because the industries are more careful and then we start to see companies which are affected and which close their means of production, it is obviously a matter of concern ”, she said, while some manufacturers, particularly in the very energy-intensive glass sector, announced production stoppages. On Thursday, the Duralex glassmaker announced that it would put its furnace on standby for at least four months from November and place all of its employees on partial unemployment to save energy and preserve its finances. The glass group Arc was forced, meanwhile, to place part of its employees on partial unemployment.
During her speech at the Meeting of French Entrepreneurs (REF), the Prime Minister invited companies to quickly put in place a sobriety plan. Because, if the energy were to run out during the next winter, rationing measures could see the light of day, she explained, dismissing for the moment any coercive measure. A decree published on April 8 makes it possible to organize gas shedding for the 5,000 sites consuming more than 5 gigawatt hours (GWh) of hydrocarbons per year in order to secure the supply of sensitive sites (such as hospitals) as well as gas heating for private individuals. It thus offers gas managers the possibility of reducing, or even stopping, gas consumption in the event of an imbalance on the gas network during the winter. This organization of load shedding however requires a preliminary investigation consisting in evaluating the impact that this could have for a company in terms of safety and economic consequences. The gas network operators are currently carrying out a survey to collect this information from customers and forward it to the prefectures of the departments concerned.
Inventories soon at 100% but risks remain
Like the government, Catherine MacGregror wanted to be reassuring without excluding the risk of an energy shortage this winter. ” Since the war in Ukraine, we, all the players, have taken a number of very important measures to diversify our supplies, to ensure that our import terminals were working as well as possible and of course, to fill our storage as much as possible, so today we are rather relatively calm about the gas situation in France”, she assured. French gas stocks are 93% full, she said, saying she was very confident of reaching the 100% target at the start of winter. This objective, once reached, does not guarantee, however, a sufficient quantity to pass the winter serenely. Indeed, this manna would allow France to last 14 weeks without receiving any gas delivery. It is therefore much less than the cold period. The country must continue to import the same quantity of hydrocarbons every day. ” Nevertheless, we of course stressed that the energy system in Europe and therefore in France was still under tension, and that we had to be careful”therefore specified the leader.
She also highlighted the risk to power generation: ” A priori, we will not run out of gas, unless we need a lot more gas, because the climate is extremely cold and our production of electricity by means other than gas is weakened, in which case we will no longer use gas for electricity production and we could have a more tense scenario”she underlined, insisting on the need to demonstrate “ sobriety ».
Electricity production in France is seriously impacted by the difficulties encountered by EDF. Only 24 of the 56 reactors in EDF’s nuclear fleet are currently in service, the others being shut down for scheduled maintenance operations or following unforeseen corrosion problems. Thursday, the head of government urged EDF to restore the situation. Asked about France Inter, she said: “I am really counting on EDF to ensure its restart program in the coming weeks, in the coming months, and that would save us from having to restart a coal-fired power plant”.