France adopts sobriety measures as energy crisis and inflation hit Europe

PARIS

French households and businesses are adopting the government’s call for “energy sobriety” with responsible consumption of electricity and gas in the face of the risk of shortages caused by the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Following announcements by President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to save energy and prepare for a complete cut in Russian gas supply, families are preparing for emergency measures for the next season winter.

“I have already ordered extra wood for the fireplace because we will have to use fewer radiators for heating,” said Lucienne Droz-Vincent, a retiree from Lyon. With gas prices likely to skyrocket, the retiree is making sure her monthly budget doesn’t run out due to extra heating costs during the winter months.

In Puy-de-Dôme, music teacher Jean-François DeGroot replaced the electric lights in his house with LED lights to save energy and prepared an energy plan to deal with winter.

“We have three radiators for the whole house and our gas consumption is not huge, but we end up paying a large bill of around €70 ($71) per month during the winter season,” he said. told Anadolu Agency.

It keeps the heating system schedule in sync with government guidelines – radiators are turned off at night and during the day are only activated when the temperature drops below 19 degrees Celsius (66 degrees Fahrenheit).

“We are aware of the energy situation due to the war and we will try to limit our electricity consumption as much as possible,” he said.

Soaring energy prices

The change in behavior of many French households like this has been driven by soaring energy prices, mainly for gas and fuel oil, since the start of the year. Gas prices in particular soared by 40.9% between December 2020 and October 2021 even though it is consumed to a lesser extent by households, according to a recent economic outlook report from the National Institute of Statistics and economic studies (INSEE). .

Small measures like these may not seem like a big help in saving energy but are effective ways to cut bills by up to 20% when rising energy prices weigh on household budgets. According to the INSEE report, an average French household saw its energy bill increase by €14 due to the variation in gas prices between November 2019 and October 2021.

With the outbreak of war in February, inflation intensified in France, with energy spending being the main contributor to the price spike, followed by food prices, according to another INSEE report. Fuel and energy expenses for housing are higher for people like DeGroot living in rural areas, as one has to rely on private transport for daily commuting.

To protect the most vulnerable against rising energy prices, the government will provide subsidies on fuel and energy prices.

Conserve energy good for the pockets, the climate

The government has framed energy sobriety measures that are as good for the pockets and the climate as they aim to put an end to energy waste. In her appeal to commercial enterprises, Energy Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher said energy-saving measures will not only help France get through the winter, but also reduce gas emissions in the long term. Greenhouse effect.

Supermarket chains such as Carrefour, Leclerc, Lidl, Casino, Auchan and major consumer brands such as Decathlon, Ikea, Boulanger and others have joined the decree of the Ministry of Energy to reduce the consumption of store electricity.

Adhere to daily measures such as turning off light advertising at night, reducing light intensity when there are no customers in stores, keeping store doors closed when air conditioning or heating is on, and lowering ambient temperatures will help reduce environmental impact and promote responsible consumption, says a statement from the Federation of Commerce and Distribution.

In addition to trade opportunities, Premier Borne also wants her cabinet ministers and government administration to set an example for the people. Its list of guidelines also includes simple measures like using carpooling or cycling to get to work, installing a thermostat in the building and turning on the air conditioning when the temperature exceeds 26 C (78.8 F), not keeping appliances standby power and turn off lights and Wi-Fi when not in use.

France in a better situation

Although the government has warned people to prepare for the “worst-case scenario” on energy, France is in a better situation than others in Europe.

France’s gas supplies from Russia are only around 17% and in mid-June it completely stopped receiving natural gas by pipeline from Moscow. It replaces Russian gas with supplies from the Gulf, Norway, Algeria and the United States. Last month, Paris concluded a strategic energy cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates to secure its fuel and gas supplies. It is also setting up a temporary floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker project in the port of Le Havre to increase import capacity. Currently, its gas reserve is 75% – above the EU’s 50% recommendation – and it aims to reach 100% capacity by November.

Parliament also gave the green light to exceptional measures under the law on purchasing power to secure energy needs for the next five years. This is the temporary reopening of the coal-fired power plant in Saint-Avold, in the Moselle department, which was closed in March 2022 to produce electricity. France will also import up to 70% of its electricity from Germany and Belgium and supply them with excess gas.

Even as the threat of inflation and energy shortages linked to the Russian war prevails, Pannier-Rauchner assured parliament that “thanks to European solidarity”, France will be ready for this winter.

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