French President Emmanuel Macron has urged for calm during an interview on TF1 on Saturday, conceding that there is a risk of power cuts in France during the winter. The French leader said that the cuts could be avoided if citizens reduced their consumption to help the government achieve its 10% energy saving plans.
“Don’t panic, it’s useless,” he said. “If we all, together, stick to the energy saving plan which was presented by the government… then yes we will be able to pass this, even with this month of December and a cold January during this period. It depends on us.”
The government is preparing for load shedding events in January to help reserve reserves of dwindling power, which it says can no longer be ruled out. French authorities are also preparing its citizens for this eventuality, both by giving out early warnings and promoting an app, Ecowatt, which warns of upcoming power cuts.
The prepared power cuts may affect up to 60% of the French population, but will last just two hours at a time during one of the two peak times (08:00-13:00 or 18:00-20:00). No household, the government assures, will be hit by power cuts twice in a day.
This will not apply to critical power in place such as hospitals, police stations, fire stations, and others. Those requiring specialised treatment at home will also not be affected. Three days before load shedding, users will be alerted via their app or by SMS of the power cut.
In France, some businesses have already expressed concern, especially in light of the memory of forced closures during the Covid-19 pandemic. Naturally, no power means no ovens, fridges, lighting, or sound equipment. This would spell disaster for many businesses in the hospitality and catering sector.
France’s unlikely hero in its grim electricity outlook is- Belgium. Cables spanning the border at Templeuve in Hainaut have recently been reinforced, doubling their exchange capacity. Belgium regularly sells electricity to neighbouring countries. With many of France’s nuclear reactors out of the water, and the price of energy skyrocketing, France has drastically increased imports from Belgium.
The cables function both ways, and can equally help supply Belgium with electricity in its time of need. In a comment to RTBF, Christ Peeters, CEO of Elia, Belgium’s Electricity System Operator, said that the reinforced connection would “reduce the cost necessary to guarantee the security of supply” and help integrate European power grids.