France launches an all-out energy sobriety plan to face the winter

Steph Deschamps / October 6, 2022

World of the sport, of the work, administrations, businesses, industries... All the sectors have been solicited: the French government presents Thursday in great pomp its plan of energy sobriety, intended to prepare a difficult winter, without Russian gas and with numerous stopped nuclear reactors.
 
Among the "dozens of measures" planned, are a call to heat less and light less, an encouragement to telecommuting, a financial incentive to carpooling or the cutting of hot water in the administrations (except showers) ...
 
The goal is to reduce France's energy consumption by 10% in two years, and in the meantime to ensure that the country spends the winter without gas or electricity cuts.
 
Half a century after the first oil crisis, the French, both households and companies, will have to relearn how to reduce their electricity consumption at peak times, in the morning and evening, and burn less gas throughout the winter, to save the reserves that are full but will not be enough.
 
To signify the urgency, no less than nine ministers will follow one another throughout the afternoon, exchanging with local elected officials, business representatives or the High Council for Climate, to present these "savings measures", the result of a few months work.
 
The event, at the Parc des expositions de la porte de Versailles in Paris, will be closed by the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
 
It is she and her Minister of Energy Transition who had announced in late June the launch of this plan, "first step" to reduce France's energy consumption by 40% by 2050 and work towards carbon neutrality. "In the longer term, energy sobriety will be fundamental to achieving our climate objectives," they said.
 
"This sobriety plan is a voluntary long-term plan that starts from the ground and is intended to be irreversible," said Wednesday the Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher before the deputies. "It mobilizes primarily large companies, local authorities and obviously the state, because the effort must come first of all those who have the most resources and those who have the most impact.
 
The heating of water represents 10% of the energy for public buildings, explains the Ministry of the Civil Service, which must also announce an increase of 15% of the telework compensation, to 2.88 euros per day.
At the heart of the recommendations is the famous maintenance of the indoor temperature at 19 ° C, in the energy code since 1978.
 
"It's the law, but customers were asking us for 21°C or even 22°C, because the price of fossil fuels was low," says Pierre de Montlivault, president of the federation of energy services. "Today the conditions are met so that together, companies, syndicates, lessors..." make it "for good".
 
On the side of the sport, represented Thursday in particular by Tony Estanguet, of the committee of organization of the Olympic Games of Paris 2024, one foresees to lower the heating of the equipments, a degree in less in the swimming pools, and a moderation of the lightings before and after matches.
 
In the chapter of the lighting, a decree appeared Thursday in the Official Journal to generalize the extinction of the lights of the stores and the luminous advertisements between 1 and 6 hours.
 
Thursday will also see the launch of a communication campaign to hammer home the point that "every gesture counts"... But "there is no question of asking for additional efforts from the 12 million French people in a situation of energy insecurity", said Mrs. Pannier-Runacher.
 
With the surge in energy prices, fueled by the post-Covid recovery and the war in Ukraine but also by the problems of the nuclear reactors of Electricité de France (EDF), the word "sobriety" has arrived at the heart of public policy, after having often been taboo.
 
In advance, environmental NGOs have welcomed the government's approach, while calling, as France Nature Environnement (FNE), to "see further than the end of the winter".
 
Anne Bringault, who will speak on Thursday for the Climate Action Network, already doubts the achievement of the objective of -10% over two years, as long as "we remain essentially to encouragements and incentives, without planned monitoring of commitments and real impacts of measures.
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