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ENERGY

All the ways France’s ‘energy sobriety’ plan could impact your life

On Thursday, French government officials announced the country's winter energy-saving plan - from 'sweater Fridays' to street lighting, central heating to travel, here's how the plans are likely to affect your daily life.

All the ways France's 'energy sobriety' plan could impact your life
Street lights in Paris, with an unlit Eiffel Tower in the background on April 24, 2022. (Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP)

The French government announced its long-awaited sobriété enégetique (energy-saving) plan on Thursday.

The plan is divided into three sections; public services, businesses and households with the bulk of the energy-saving rules falling on local and national government offices and agencies.

While private individuals are recommended, rather than required, to make any specific changes to their life or routine, everyone living in France can expect to be affected by the plan.

Here is how your life in France might change this winter:

When relaxing at home

The government has listed several recommendations for how households and individuals can lower their energy consumption.

These are not obligatory and the Prime Minister clarified on Friday that “there will be no temperature police” for homes, but if you want to decrease your energy usage you might consider some minor changes.

Households have been encouraged to keep heating to a maximum 19C (or 17C in bedrooms), so if you follow the guidelines and were previously used to a warmer home, you might consider investing in some blankets and sweaters.

Ministers also suggested that individuals not launch the dishwasher or other appliances at 7pm when they get home from work, as this is a peak time when many others on the electrical grid will be using energy. 

You might also consider taking other smaller steps, such as unplugging devices on standby or turning off the lights when they are not needed and unplugging devices and turning off the wifi if you are going to be away for a few days. 

Individuals have also been encouraged to use the website “Ecowatt” to keep track of the energy forecast (which shows the pressure the electric grid is across France). When the colours are yellow or red, that means the grid is under strain and energy saving techniques, like the ones listed above, are strongly advised.

READ MORE: Revealed: The worst-case scenario for blackouts this winter in France

When at work

If you work in an office you can expect it to be a bit cooler this winter. The energy-saving plan calls on businesses and offices to keep indoor temperatures to a maximum 19C. 

While work-from-home will not be required by the government, part of its energy plan is to make public offices and ministries ‘exemplary’ in the effort of encouraging similar responses by individuals and businesses. One such plan is work-from-home – the government will invest more funding to expand the capacity for remote in its ministries and public buildings, in the effort of decreasing the carbon emissions of commuting to and from work. 

As a result, you might see your business or office consider bringing in more work-from-home, but again – this has not been mandated by the state, so it would depend on your workplace and its decision.

Businesses have agreed to create plans for “remote working in emergency situations.” One such situation would be a “red” status on the Ecowatt website. 

Your workplace may also begin encouraging more environmentally-friendly means of transport. Businesses have signed up to agreements to eliminate unnecessary travel, as well as to only use airline travel when the journey by rail is more than four hours one way or six hours round trip on the same day. 

When shopping

While doing your shopping, you will notice that the heating in stores will be slightly decreased as well. This will be particularly pronounced if it is a “red” day – when the electric grid is particularly strained, heating will be reduced to an average temperature of 17C during peak times (8am-12pm and 6pm-8pm).

The rest of the time, stores will be heated to a maximum of 19C.

You might also notice that the lights are slightly dimmer than usual. Both large stores and specialised stores have agreed to reduce their lighting by 30 percent – although this also includes measures like turning off lights at night and reducing illuminated signs and adverts. 

Doors will also remain closed. You probably remember this coming into effect over the summer, when shops were asked to keep their doors and windows shut when air conditioning was running. Heating is, in fact, uses more energy than air conditioning, and shops and stores will need to keep their doors closed if the heating is on.

Taking an evening stroll

It might be slightly darker, depending on what time of night you are walking. Local authorities across France have agreed to enforce the rule that signs and illuminated advertising must be turned off between 1am and 6am.

Additionally, public lighting – including street lights will be switched off earlier – between 11pm to 5.30am, except for main roads and big city streets. 

Some exterior lighting might be switched off before that – shopping malls and medium to large retail stores agreed in their energy sobriety plans to turn off advertisements and illuminated signs at closing time. 

This will also apply to hotels, restaurants and cafes, who will turn off indoor and outdoor lighting at the end of their services, and hotels who will turn off signs between midnight and 6am.

Depending on where you live, your town or city may have decided to take further action by reducing the lighting hours for monuments, in Paris the lights on the Eiffel Tower will be turned off one hour earlier.

READ MORE: French city to stop lighting up public buildings in order to save energy

Enjoying leisure activities

You might want to wear an extra sweatshirt to start off your workout at the gym this winter, as temperatures in gymnasiums will be lowered by 2C on average.

Swimmers might also feel a bit chillier, as the water temperature in public pools will be brought down by 1C, as recommended by the National Association of Elected Sports and the Association of Elected Sports Officials. 

Cinemas have also agreed to keep maximum heating to 19C.

When on vacation

If you are travelling or taking a trip, the hotel you book in France will also respect maximum temperatures of 19C, with pools and spas bringing down their heating by 1C too.

If you are planning to hit the ski slopes, chairlifts and gondolas are going to have their speed adapted depending on the time of day. During peak hours, ski lifts should run at their normal speeds, but at quieter times, speeds will be reduced to save energy.

You might also notice that some of the lifts are a bit more crowded, as resorts will try to shut down any redundant lifts (meaning closing one if there are two that service the same tracks). 

And if you are taking your kids on a theme park holiday this winter, you’ll notice that the outdoor attractions will not be heated.

If you are heading to visit popular French sites – including the famous Versailles (known across France for exuberant lighting) – you might notice them looking a bit different. Versailles specifically will only light its facade until 10pm (an hour earlier than it normally would), and it will switch over to LED lighting which uses less energy.

READ MORE: French phrase of the Day: C’est pas Versailles ici

The monument’s manager, Louis Samuel-Bergé told Franceinfo that if it Versailles is asked to lower the temperature by 1C, it might even be good for the building, as conserving artwork requires higher humidity. 

“Lowering the temperature increases humidity,” explained Samuel-Bergé, who said the palace would be prepared to take such measures.

When getting dressed

It might sound a bit silly, but you will probably start to see turtlenecks – or col roulé in French – become more of a staple across France, as offices and government buildings turn down the heating. Several French public officials – including France’s finance minister, Bruno Le Maire – have began making the case for turtlenecks and more weather-appropriate clothing choices.

During the press conference, public affairs minister, Stanislas Guerini, said that government officials would see dress codes relax in public buildings to allow for warmer dress. In your daily life, you might start seeing less suits and more turtlenecks.

If you live in the département of Mayenne, in north west France, authorities are bringing in La journée du pull-over (sweater day) every Friday, although this is not compulsory. 

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ENERGY

French electricity network says no power cuts before the end of the year

The head of France's electricity transmission network has assured the public that power cuts are not expected before the end of the year, although they remain a slim possibility for the start of 2023.

French electricity network says no power cuts before the end of the year

No power cuts in France before the end of the year, assured Jean-Paul Roubin, the head of France’s electricity transmission network (RTE) and high-voltage lines, speaking to BFMTV on Wednesday.

Roubin answered questions about the possibility of “load-shedding” (délestages) in France this winter. 

“Before the end of the year, there will not be any power cuts,” Roubin told BFMTV, adding that “At the beginning of next year, we should not panic” and that RTE is preparing by testing a number of “possible scenarios.”

READ MORE: What households in France can expect in the event of power cuts

Roubin also explained that should power cuts occur, they would remain “limited,” reiterating that the population concerned by the load-shedding event would be warned at least one day in advance. 

You can learn more about what to expect if you are set to be impacted by a French power cut HERE.

READ MORE: ‘Ecowatt’: How to use France’s new energy forecasting website and app

People across France had begun to worry about possible power cuts before the new year, as “Ecowatt” – France’s energy forecasting website and application – is likely to activate the “orange” alert (symbolising that the grid is strained at that people are encouraged to decrease energy consumption) either this weekend or early next week due to cold temperatures. 

Should the “orange” alert be put into place, it would mark the first time since April 4th. However, Roubin told BFMTV that he did not foresee any blackouts ahead of this weekend. 

Roubin also congratulated the French for a drop in energy consumption. “There is good news to take into account, such as the drop in consumption by more than six percent to 8.3 percent in the last week alone,” the RTE boss said, signaling the role industries and businesses had played in this.

According to public officials, France needs to decrease its energy consumption by ten percent this year to avoid power cuts. 

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