French government warns against potential gas cuts

The French government warned on Wednesday that companies may have to cut energy consumption this winter, even if the country’s natural gas reserves are at full capacity, as Russia continues to cut gas exports to Europe.

“Major players, government agencies and businesses, must reduce their consumption” of gas as well as electricity because “the two systems are interconnected,” Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher told CNews.

Moscow has cut its exports to Europe in response to Western sanctions over Russian troops invading Ukraine, forcing countries to look for alternatives.

Although France is less dependent on Russian supplies than other EU countries, generating about three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power plants, its industrial sector is still dependent on gas, with millions of people using it to heat their homes.

A winter deficit will pose a risk even as France rushes to replenish its gas reserves.

“Right now our strategic gas reserves are 80 percent full… which means we will reach our 100 percent target by November 1st,” Pannier-Runacher said.

But she later insisted on RMC radio that full supplies might not be enough to avoid a gas shutdown as the government looks for alternative sources.

“It’s not that easy… We can have a particularly cold day, and because of the size of the pipelines, we can’t pump all the gas we have,” she said.

France is also going through a winter when fewer of its nuclear power plants will be running due to maintenance or safety issues, meaning electricity supplies could be overwhelmed.

“We count on solidarity, especially with Germany, in the import of electricity,” she said. “And we need to support Germany with the gas we import through our LNG terminals.”