The government on Sunday called for “moving into the fray quickly” to deal with the possibility of a complete cut in Russian gas supplies. This is the “most likely option,” said Economics Minister Bruno Le Maire.
“Let’s prepare for the complete shutdown of Russian gas, this is the most likely option today. This requires that we accelerate our energy independence,” pleaded during the Aix-en-Provence economic meeting, the number 2 of the French government, which wants to use the summer to “put itself in combat readiness” before winter.
“We are absolutely independent. The first independence must be energy,” he pounded in Aix.
In terms of supply, “we may have tensions over gas this winter,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned at a meeting with the press on Saturday.
To avoid bottlenecks, the government has demanded that national gas storage capacity be “nearly 100% filled” by the start of autumn.
“For electricity, we should normally have higher production, according to EDF forecasts, as the 12 reactors (out of 56) currently shut down due to corrosion restart, Ms Borne said on Saturday.
However, should the power go out, the government is preparing a series of measures for the winter, designed to prioritize households and certain industries.
“Of course we get households and (…) we don’t cut off factories or public transport,” Ms. Borne explained on Saturday.
“We now have to bring ourselves into battle order about the organization, dismantling, sobriety, reducing consumption … now we have to make the decisions,” repeated the economy minister.
Spread the effort
Thus, some industrial sites could be asked to “slow down their energy consumption or even stop it for a certain period of time”, explained Mr. Le Maire, while specifying that for certain sites it is “totally impossible” not to do so around “the industrial tool to break”.
Given the risk of Vladimir Poutine cutting the gas tap to Europe, “a credible option”, said Bruno Le Maire in an interview with LCI on the sidelines of the Aix meetings, we must “anticipate the consequences”.
France, which it says is in a “more favorable” situation than its neighbors, will notably have to acquire a new floating LNG terminal next year to ensure its supplies.
“We have to spread the effort between administrations, individuals and companies,” explained Bruno Le Maire.
The government has also established three working groups to improve energy sobriety in government, business and public facilities. The aim is to create a roadmap to reduce energy consumption by 10% within two years compared to 2019.
“It’s going to be several months, but it’s also going to have to get us making a number of investment decisions and being resourceful. France is extraordinarily imaginative, creative in terms of energy,” said Bruno Le Maire of LCI.
The risk of energy shortages does not stop at France’s borders either, as the President of the European Commission on Wednesday called on the 27 member states of the European Union to ‘prepare for fresh disruptions or even a complete disruption to gas supplies to Russia.’
Germany, otherwise more dependent on Russian gas than France, is already on alert. The Bundestag has decided on an austerity plan: more heating above 20 degrees in winter and more hot water in individual offices, for example.
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