Thu, 02 Feb 2023

French President Emmanuel Macron has dismissed growing fears of winter electricity outages as "overblown", even as France's energy companies prepare for possible targeted power cuts if consumption is not reduced and cold snaps strain the grid.

France's electricity network has come under increasing pressure as state power company EDF races to restart dozens of nuclear reactors taken down for maintenance or safety work that has proved more challenging than originally thought.

Reduced gas exports from Russia as it cuts supplies in retaliation for Western sanctions over the war in Ukraine have added to worries that gas-burning power plants might have to trim production.

Speaking ahead of an EU-Balkans summit in the Albanian capital, Tirana, President Macron said "Stop it - we're a major power, we have a great energy system, and we're going to get through this winter despite the war.

"This debate is absurd, the role of the public authorities is not to breed fear," he added.

France reboots coal-fired power plant to boost winter electricity supplies'Don't panic'

Macron had already urged people "not to panic" over the weekend, saying power cuts can be avoided if overall energy usage this winter was reduced by 10 percent.

However, last week the government told local officials to begin preparing contingency plans in case targeted cuts were needed, possibly including closing schools until midday.

France is usually one of Europe's largest electricity exporters thanks to its network of 56 nuclear reactors, which supply around 70 percent of its electricity needs.

But this winter it will be a major importer of power from Britain, Germany, Spain and other neighbouring countries, grid operator RTE said last week.

France prepares for possibility of electricity blackouts during winter monthsWinter is coming

According to RTE's chief Xavier Piechaczyk, the risk of power cuts could not be excluded, "but it will essentially depend on the weather."

Normally France's 56 nuclear reactors can produce 61 gigawatts of power, but with around half of the fleet offline, just 43 gigawatts are expected to be available by end-January.

Speaking on France 2 television this Tuesday, government spokesman Olivier Veran said, "Rule number one is that nothing is inevitable ... Together we have the capacity to avoid any risk of cuts, no matter how the winter turns out."

Originally published on RFI

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