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ENERGY

Living in France: How to cut your household energy use by 10% this winter

As the French government prepares its energy-saving plan, businesses and civil servants are required to cut their energy use. For households this is voluntary, but if you want to help out and also save yourself some money, here are some tips for cutting consumption.

Living in France: How to cut your household energy use by 10% this winter
Photo by JEAN-CHRISTOPHE VERHAEGEN / AFP

While French residents have been shielded from huge rises in energy bills thanks to the government price cap, there is still the concern of energy shortages this winter, as well as the increasingly urgent need to tackle climate change.

France has already enacted some measures – such as temperature limits in public buildings – and more will follow at the end of the month as the country lays out its plans to cut energy consumption by 10 percent over two years and by 30 percent by 2030.

For households and private individuals, the 10 percent target is entirely voluntary, but whether you want to save yourself some money on your energy bills, do your bit for the planet or help to ensure that France won’t face rationing this winter, here are some things to try.

When it comes to gas consumption, household usage makes up 31 percent of France’s total, ahead of industry on 28 percent.

Heating

This is probably the biggest single change you can make, as lowering your heating by just 1C works out at roughly 7 percent lower consumption.

The rule for government buildings is no warmer than 19C in winter, while those with air conditioning cannot be cooled to lower than 26C in summer.

This is purely a guideline for households, but it is suggested that living rooms be no warmer than 19C and bedrooms no warmer than 16C – provided you do not share a household with someone who is elderly or in poor health, as they may need warmer living spaces.

“Most buildings can reduce their energy consumption by 10 to 15 percent without delay – and at little cost – thanks to better adjustment of the heating and the adoption of good practices that limit energy waste on a daily basis,” says the the Swiss agency Energie-environnement.

Shutters

Shut the shutters once night falls in order to keep your home warm, but if it is warm and sunny during the day open up shutters to allow the sunshine to warm the room.

If it is very cold, or if you are away from home, keep the shutters shut.

Efficiency

It is technically required for many households to have the boiler serviced on an annual basis, but many people skip this. However, you can cut consumption by 8-12 percent per year simply by having your boiler working at maximum efficiency.

Also make sure your radiators are working as efficiently as possible and aren’t hidden behind furniture or curtains. Shelves should be at least 25-30cm above the radiator, to allow the air to circulate.

Holidays

If you are going to be away for five days or more, lower the temperature on the heating to below 19C – if your trip is less than five days, the energy required to heat up the house again will be the same or more as you have saved while being away, so it’s not advised to do this if you’re only away for a short trip.

For most families, heating represents around two thirds of their energy consumption, so this is definitely the area to focus on first.

However, there are some other things you can do to cut consumption.

  • If you are cooking, putting a lid on a pan of boiling water cuts gas usage by up to 25 percent
  • Having a shower uses less water than a bath, and therefore requires less energy to heat the hot water
  • If possible turn devices off completely, rather than putting them in standby mode, and unplug phone chargers when you are not using them
  • When going away turn off and unplug as many things as possible – including your wifi router – in order to avoid using energy when you are not there
  • And of course, that favourite cry of parents everywhere, turn off the lights in rooms you are not using

READ ALSO Why do the French say ‘C’est pas Versailles ici’?

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ENERGY

French electricity grid operator to return €1 billion to clients

France's electrical grid operator RTE said on Wednesday that it would hand at least one billion euros back to major power users in early 2023, as its revenues have surged during Europe's energy crisis.

French electricity grid operator to return €1 billion to clients

The exact amount will “match the one-off profit forecast for 2022 with the electricity market under stress,” the largely state-owned RTE said in a statement.

It added that the reimbursement could reach a record of more than €1.5 billion.

The move comes as public pressure is growing for an EU-wide tax on the “super-profits” generated by energy companies as prices have soared since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Almost 380 large-scale electricity buyers in industry would share around €130 million from the pot, RTE finance and purchasing director Laurent Martel told AFP.

The companies include chemical plants, metalworking sites, steelmaking operations as well as paper and cardboard factories.

But most of the payout — around 90 percent — will go to operators of local low- and medium-voltage networks, which bridge the gap between RTE and end users of electricity, from industry to households.

RTE’s revenues have been especially strong this year thanks to fees paid to use its so-called “interconnectors” across national borders.

These depend in part on the difference in electricity prices between France and its neighbours, which soared this year due to the energy crunch from the war in Ukraine and a large chunk of the country’s nuclear reactor fleet being under maintenance.

RTE said that without its plan to bring forward the reimbursement, the payments would instead be spread over several years.

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