Energy For Members

Energy sobriety: What does Macron's plan to cut energy use mean for France?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 15 Jul, 2022 Updated Fri 15 Jul 2022 11:54 CEST
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(Photo: Ludovic Marin / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Thursday that the government will prepare a plan for 'sobriété énergétique' as Europe faces a winter without Russian gas - so what does this mean for people living in France?


In the traditional presidential interview with journalists on the day of the Fête nationale, Macron said that Russia was using energy as "a weapon of war".

“Today we must prepare for a scenario where we have to do without Russian gas entirely,” he added. 

READ ALSO Macron says France to do without Russian gas

He added that the government was working on a sobriété énergétique (energy sobriety) plan.

But what does that mean?


The president's interview provided few details, as is usual for Macron, he simply sketched out the idea and added that details will follow once the government has figured out what they are.

But here's what we do know:

France, which draws most of its electricity from nuclear power, is not as dependent on Russian gas as other EU countries, such as Germany, for energy production. But Macron wants a 10 percent cut in energy consumption across France in two years.

The country’s top three energy providers have already called on the public to reduce energy consumption this summer in order to save resources and avoid shortages this winter as cuts to Russian gas and oil begin to bite.

READ ALSO French energy firms urge ‘immediate’ cut in consumption to avoid shortages this winter


The initial part of the plan seems to be focused on businesses and public officials, rather than households.

"I am going to ask our public administrations, our large businesses, to prepare a plan to consume less this summer," Macron said.

This line was repeated on Friday by transport minister Clément Beaune in a TV interview.

“We are going to build a plan and we are going to try to pay attention to lighting in the evening. We are going to make a sobriety and load-shedding plan  - it is gas and electricity we are talking about here - with businesses,” Beaune said.


But households in France will also play a role in the plan by saving energy, with Macron calling for "collective solidarity".

In energy terms, load-shedding is the deliberate and temporary interruption of an electricity supply to avoid excessive load on the generating plant. In South Africa, load-shedding involves planned rolling power cuts in towns and cities, although it's unlikely that this will be necessary in France.

It seems more likely that more straightforward efforts - as simple as businesses switching off the lights when they close for the evening - will be tried first.


In 2013, a law obliging businesses to switch off outside lights by 1am came into force. That deadline may be brought forward. And the number of towns and villages switching off streetlights in the early hours may well increase.

Environmental campaigners have already been calling for businesses to shut off their lights when they are closed, as this viral video highlights.


Meanwhile, Europe1 has reported that the government could bring forward plans to buy electric rather than ICE fleet cars, and it is considering asking supermarkets and businesses to cut down on air conditioning and heating use in summer and winter.


The plan intends France to cut energy consumption by 10 percent in two years, and that gas consumption is a key target. Currently, France’s 16 underground gas storage sites are 68 percent full - up from 56 percent full at the same time in 2021. 

READ ALSO France no longer receiving any Russian gas via pipelines

Macron wants them at 100 percent capacity before the start of what’s known as “gas winter” on November 1st, when consumption traditionally starts to rise. 

The problem is that Russian gas supplier Gazprom has cutting deliveries to Europe via Nord Stream 1 by 66 percent since mid-June, and shut down the pipeline completely on July 11th - officially for a 10-day maintenance period.

France gets around 17 percent of its gas from Russia through network connections with Germany, which relies heavily on Russian supplies and has criticised Gazprom’s move as “political”, and is working to diversify its sourcing of future gas supplies, Macron said.

Nuclear power

In the longer-term, Macron said that France’s energy security would continue to depend on nuclear power. The country currently draws about 70 percent of its energy needs from its ageing nuclear power stations. 

Macron has already outlined plans to renew France’s nuclear power generation and committed again to continuing down this path, saying: "Nuclear power is a sustainable solution … in France and abroad."

READ ALSO Why is France so obsessed with nuclear power?

We should expect to find out more about the plan in the coming days.



The Local 2022/07/15 11:54

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