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ENERGY

French electricity firms offer bonuses for cutting back this winter

Two leading French electricity providers will offer bonuses this winter to households that reduce consumption in the face of soaring prices and potential supply disruptions.

French electricity firms offer bonuses for cutting back this winter
The new TotalEnergies logo during its unveling ceremony, at a charging station in La Defense on the outskirts of Paris in 2021. (Photo by Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP)

Russia has slashed gas exports to Europe in response to Western sanctions over its war against Ukraine, while many of France’s nuclear reactors — providing around 70 percent of its electricity — are offline for safety checks or repairs.

TotalEnergies said Wednesday that bonuses of €30 to €120 would be paid to private clients who adopt the government’s calls for energy “sobriety” over winter months.

Usage is measured by smart meters that show real-time consumption, which have been installed for over three million clients, the company said.

Rival energy group Engie also announced a bonus programme starting mid-October for households that cut back on days when the grid is under particular strain.

For clients who reduce use by 10 to 20 percent those days, Engie will offer rebates of five to ten euros, said marketing director Marion Deridder-Blondel.

State-owned EDF — by far the largest electricity supplier to French households — is facing a €29-billion hit to profit from the nuclear reactor outages that will require it to buy electricity from other producers.

It has not announced a new plan to encourage energy savings, but already offers rebates to clients who cut back on so-called “red” days of peak usage in winter.

Worries about rising prices for a slew of everyday goods have moved the forefront across Europe as supply disruptions from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine persist, raising the risk of economic slowdowns or even recessions.

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ENERGY

Schools, trains and hospitals: How France will handle possible electricity blackouts this winter

The French government has sent out detailed information regarding the possibility of power outages this winter as the country continues to grapple with securing energy supplies in the absence of Russian gas.

Schools, trains and hospitals: How France will handle possible electricity blackouts this winter

The French government has sent out the detailed information to local authorities for use in the event of power outages – something that the government still says is unlikely to happen.

French government officials have already clarified that any power cuts would occur when the energy grid is overly strained, in the event of the combination of unusually cold weather, ongoing problems at French nuclear plants and the failure to buy in extra power supplies from European neighbours.

“We are not saying that there are going to be power cuts, but that it is not impossible,” Olivier Véran, the government spokesperson clarified to RMC on Thursday.

If power outages are likely, information will be available on the Ecowatt website and app, which can be accessed now. Three days in advance, you will be able to see if you are in a “red” zone (meaning energy is highly strained), and one day prior, at 3pm, you will be informed as to whether your département is to be affected by a power outage the next day. Later, at 5pm you will be able to enter your personal address to see if you will be personally impacted.

“The idea is for no one to be surprised”, a government source told regional newspaper Nice Matin.

It should be noted that Corsica is not at risk of blackouts because it is not on the same electrical grid as mainland France.

READ MORE: ‘Ecowatt’: How you should use France’s new energy forecasting website?

These power outages would not occur across the entire country – instead they would affect small segments of the grid, such as individual towns or localities.

Additionally, these power outages would only take place either in the morning (between the hours of 8am and 1pm) or in the evening between the hours of 6pm and 8pm and would not affect crucial buildings such as hospitals. 

Local authorities have now been tasked with preparing an emergency response solutions in the event of a power cut in their area.

A source told the regional newspaper that local authorities will be required to present “load-shedding (power outage) plans that would reduce consumption in the areas concerned by up to 38 percent.”

According to reporting by Nice Matin, France’s inter ministerial crisis unit is working with the assumption that six to ten load shedding operations (power cuts) will be necessary over the winter period, and that these two-hour operations could affect up to six million people at a time.

The documents also provided further detail regarding how people will be impacted during such an event, which is outlined below:

Cancelled trains

If a power outage occurs, trains will likely be cancelled in the affected area to prevent passengers from finding themselves stuck in the middle of a track with the signalling system cut off. Local authorities will be left to decide how to handle city public transport such as Metro systems.

Schools

The French government said it was working alongside the Ministry of Education to develop plans to close schools in the mornings if the area is to be impacted by rolling blackouts. Leaving schools open during power outages could have negative ramifications, considering a lack of heating, alarm systems and lighting. Schools would be open again in the afternoons, as power cuts are not set to take place between 1pm and 6pm. 

Emergency locations

The French government has said that these rolling blackouts could impact up to 60 percent of the French population. However, sensitive sites, such as hospitals, police stations, gendarmeries, and fire stations will not have their power turned off, according to reporting by BFMTV.

Some industrial sites have also been placed on the priority lists to not be impacted by blackouts.

For emergencies, people are still recommended to call the number 112.

READ MORE: Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

Severity

Power cuts will reportedly not impact an entire region or départment, but instead will be concentrated to smaller areas. 

Up to 40 percent of people in France will not be impacted by power outages due to the fact that they might be connected to a “priority line.”

Additionally, in terms of who will be affected – it will never be the same area twice in a row and none of the more-than 3,800 high-risk patients who depend on at-home medical equipment will be impacted.

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