Lower the air-con, cut the wifi and turn off the lights, France urges residents

The French government has urged people to make the effort to save energy - including by cutting wifi routers when on holiday and lowering the air-con - as it prepares a plan to cut the entire country's energy use by 10 percent. Here's what we know so far about the plan.

Lower the air-con, cut the wifi and turn off the lights, France urges residents
French Government's Spokesperson Olivier Veran calls on people to cut their energy usage. Photo by Ludovic MARIN / AFP

“Every bit of energy that we are able to collectively save now is energy that we will be sure of being able to use in autumn or winter,” government spokesman Olivier Véran told reporters after a weekly cabinet meeting.

“When you go away for the weekend or on holiday, unplug as many plugs as possible because if not they (appliances) continue to consume energy. You should unplug your wifi in particular,” he said.   

He also advised adjusting the setting on air-conditioning and turning off lights in rooms that you’re not using.

France has ambitious targets to cut its total energy use by 10 percent over the next two years and 40 percent by 2050.

The government is at present working on an energy saving plan that will involve public administration, businesses and individuals and it currently in talks with unions and business leaders.

Energy sobriety: What does Macron’s plan to cut energy mean for France

Although targets for businesses and public offices are likely to be mandatory, for private individuals the efforts are purely voluntary, with Véran telling reporters that it is “not our philosophy” to make cuts mandatory in households.

France’s energy transition minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has also urged people to keep heating to a maximum of 19C and air con to a minimum of 26C, although again these are guidelines rather than rules.

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This week France’s largest supermarket chains announced that they had agreed an energy-saving plan that includes turning off all lights at stores that are closed, dimming lights in certain areas and lowering the temperature in stores during the winter. 

The moves reflects growing anxiety in France and across Europe about energy shortfalls later in the year due to Russia reducing its gas deliveries, or cutting them completely, following the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Many countries are racing to fill gas storage facilities over the summer, when consumption is usually lower than in winter, but the recent heatwave in France and other European nations has increased demand on power plants for air conditioning.

France is more insulated than most against the effects of Russia’s invasion because it generates around two thirds of its electricity from nuclear power.

But annual inflation is running at nearly six percent and the government is trying to pass a new €20 billion support package to help low-income families cope with the rising costs of food and travel.

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MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in

The cost of living is a hot topic in France and across Europe right now - so where are the cheapest places to live?

MAP: The 20 cheapest French towns and cities to live in

At a time when purchasing power has never been so central to French people’s concerns, French daily Le Parisien has compiled a list of towns and cities where your money will go the furthest.

In order to produce this ranking, Le Parisien compiled the average salary in each location and then looked at the price of the average supermarket shop, the cost of transport (fuel as well as public transport), property prices (to buy or rent), property tax rates and the cost of a cinema ticket. 

READ ALSO Food, fuel and transport: Which prices will rise in France in 2023?

And it turns out smaller is better.

Of the 96 towns and cities tested, Niort, in the département of Deux-Sèvres in south west France (population around 60,000) came top,

Laval, in Mayenne (population around 50,000) was third; Saint-Brieuc, in the Brittany département of Côtes-d’Armor (population around 45,000), was 8th, and Rodez, down in the southern département of Aveyron (pop: c 25,000) was 10th.

The 20 most wallet-friendly towns in France are:

  1. Niort
  2. Châteauroux
  3. Laval
  4. Nevers
  5. Belfort
  6. Chaumont
  7. Épinal
  8. Saint-Brieuc
  9. Saint-Étienne
  10. Rodez
  11. Châlons-en-Champagne
  12. Quimper
  13. Arras
  14. Foix
  15. Poitiers
  16. Le Mans
  17. Colmar
  18. Montauban
  19. Bourg-en-Bresse
  20. Nantes

READ ALSO The 20 small towns most popular with house-hunters in France

Niort gains, the study found, in part because it has offered free local public transport since 2017 - a policy that other towns that rank well also implement, including second-placed Châteauroux (Indre), Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain, 24th) and Gap (Hautes-Alpes, 63rd).

For various reasons, including infrastructure, offering free public transport that meets higher levels of demand in larger cities is unviable, the report said. 

In fact, France’s larger cities are noticeably low in Le Parisien’s rankings. Lyon stumbled on to the list in 58th, Paris in 77th, Marseille 84th, and Montpellier 90th. Nantes, coming in 20th, is the only ‘large city’ representative in the top 20.

READ ALSO Wild boar, fast internet and kindly neighbours – why small-town France has the best of all worlds

The report stated that, despite salaries being little higher than average in larger conurbations, people also pay more for shopping, public transport, movie tickets, and housing.

The survey found that, on the whole, your euro goes further in the west of the country - where supermarkets are cheaper, and towns aren’t too congested, while the cost of a tank of fuel is lower, as are - researchers discovered - the more abstract costs, such as insurance, for the same level of service as elsewhere.

READ ALSO OPINION: An inflation ‘tsunami’ is about to hit France

Eastern France, the study found, benefited from relatively cheap property prices - offering more bang for a house-buying buck than the expensive ‘coastal bounce’-affected south or the Ile-de-France region, which orbits the cost-of-living singularity that is Paris.