Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said France’s strategic gas reserves were 80 percent full at the moment, which means that they could reach 100 percent capacity before November. Yet, she insisted later on that full stocks may not be enough to avoid gas cuts as the government continues to seek alternative sources.
“It’s not so simple. We might have a particularly cold day and because of the size of the pipelines, we can’t pump all of the gas we have,” she said.
Government agencies and businesses must also reduce their consumption electricity because it is often produced based on natural gas.
France relies on natural gas to get through the winter season, and households and businesses use it as a major fuel source to heat their buildings. It is less reliant on Russian gas compared to other European Union (EU) countries, but it still warns of shortages. France generates around three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power, and nuclear plants have been recently shut down for maintenance and checks.
The unusually hot weather also affected power generation as the nation’s largest utility, Electricite de France, indicated that some of its power stations will likely produce less electricity in the coming days due to high water temperatures in rivers, which are restricting its ability to cool the plants.
The repairs to some of the company’s nuclear reactors are set to plunge electricity output to the lowest level in over three decades. EDF’s outgoing head, Jean-Bernard Levy, warned that the winter could bring energy rationing to Europe.
EU receiving significantly lower amounts of natural gas from Russia
The EU has been receiving significantly lower amounts of natural gas from Russia in the past weeks. Being the EU’s largest supplier, this has triggered fears that the flow might stop completely as the bloc is preparing for the upcoming heating season.
With most of Europe unwilling to pay in rubles for their natural gas, Russia has cut off supplies. (Related: UK unable to pay for Russian gas after imposing sanctions on Russia’s Gazprombank.)
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Europe must prepare for the possibility of Russian gas deliveries being shut off entirely in retaliation for the sanctions that the EU put on the Kremlin.
“Let’s prepare ourselves for a total cutoff of Russian gas,” Le Maire said at an economic conference in June. “That’s the most likely scenario today.”
France must be “very careful” in its energy consumption and build up gas stockpiles, reduce red tape that is slowing the development of renewable energies and accelerate its program to build new nuclear reactors, the finance minister said back then, adding that the country must also make plans to curtail energy usage company by company and region by region to ensure that businesses are spared from irreversible damage.
Le Maire also said the government is “trying to do everything that is required to avoid” the expected energy shortages. “Due to the energy crisis, due to the war in Ukraine, we could have to face a difficult time, which means that we need to be prepared.”
Even French President Emmanuel Macron warned people to prepare for a total cutoff of Russian natural gas. The president urged citizens to support alternatives and save electricity by having public lights switched off at night and engaging in a period of nationwide energy sobriety.
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