France's Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne warned that a worst-case scenario this winter could lead to rolling two-hour power cuts in French homes, amid a broad energy crisis aggravated by the war in Ukraine.
Borne’s comments to the TMC television channel Tuesday night came ahead of a special government meeting Wednesday focusing on energy and climate-related issues.
Borne told TMC that the situation is partly due to the consequences of the war in Ukraine and also to the planned shutdown of about half of France's 56 nuclear reactors for maintenance notably to repair corrosion problems. France relies on nuclear energy for about 67% of its electricity — more than any other country — and on gas for about 7%.
“It means that we’re producing less electricity, and there may be moments, if it’s very cold, where we can have a problem supplying electricity," Borne said.
"In such case ... we'd cut off, via rotations, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, for no more than two hours,” she said.
However, Borne said that gas wouldn’t be cut off in French homes, as people use it mostly for heating.
Gas could potentially be rationed for businesses which are the largest consumers, she said.
She explained such a decision would be prompted by a combination of bad circumstances, including Russia cutting off its gas supplies, restrictions on liquified natural gas imports and a very cold winter.
Russia’s state-controlled energy company Gazprom said it would suspend all gas deliveries to the French company Engie, starting from Thursday, over a financial dispute. Engie said it has already secured enough gas to meet its commitments to customers.
French minister for energy transition, Agnes Pannier-Runacher, said Tuesday the country’s strategic energy reserves were 90% full. France rolled out an “energy sobriety” plan in June, targeting a 10% reduction in energy use by 2024.
In addition, Gazprom stopped the flow of natural gas through a major pipeline from Russia to Europe early Wednesday, a temporary move to it announced in advance. Gazprom had planned to cut the flow of gas through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline until Saturday for what it says is a three-day pause for routine maintenance at a compressor station.