The threat of power cuts hangs over the country. But the government wants to spare individuals as much as possible.
In recent years, at the end of each summer, one of the chestnuts of the press was the threat of a blackout during the coming winter. A choppy red rag that seemed mostly there to attract viewership and clicks. But in 2022, the situation has changed, the threat is already more serious.
The government is beginning to prepare minds for a very complicated winter. If the temperatures plunge, it is more than likely this time that there will not be enough electricity and gas to cope with the peaks in consumption of the French. On the gas side, the situation is of course tense because of the war in Ukraine. The Russian company Gazprom has announced that it will completely suspend its gas deliveries to Engie from September 1. If France has filled its stocks, these only cover two months of national consumption.
For electricity, the major problem is in France: more than half of the nuclear fleet is shut down. Of 56 reactors, 32 are not running at the time of this writing. In the batch, some are in maintenance, a revision operation planned after a certain time of use. But the maintenance schedule had been disrupted by the covid, which caused delays.
Good point, home charging is done mainly at night
Above all, reactors are shut down because of a concern for corrosion, at the level of the welds of the elbows of the safety injection pipes, which make it possible to cool the reactor in the event of an accident. Added to this are the effects of drought, with the lowest water level upstream of the hydraulic dams. In the end, EDF produces much less electricity than expected in normal times.
To avoid the blackout, the executive therefore has a clear message: we must now learn to save electricity. The key word for the new school year is sobriety. The government will thus present in a few days an energy sobriety plan, which will first address administrations and businesses. Individuals will be called upon to make efforts for the collective good, for example by reducing heating.
The situation is therefore critical and finding yourself in the dark this winter is quite possible. With a risk for electric vehicle drivers: not being able to refuel their vehicle once at home! Especially since the number of electric cars in circulation in France has risen sharply in recent months. While just over 40,000 were registered in 2019, it was 160,000 in 2021. And from January to June 2022, 93,000 were registered. During the first half of 2022, electrics accounted for one in ten deliveries! Not to mention that there are more vehicles with large batteries.
Mechanically, the demand for electricity to refuel cars is also increasing sharply, and is therefore added to current consumption already known. Charging at home still has an advantage: it is done above all at night. You plug in your car when you arrive in the evening, to find it charged in the morning before leaving. You don’t really have to worry about a power cut at night. On the other hand, concern really rises during periods of high consumption, upon waking and in the evening.
Individuals affected as a last resort
If energy sobriety is not there, the government will first target businesses. Those who are not strategic and those who consume a lot will be the first to be affected by cuts. And on the side of individuals? It is possible, but what is called load shedding will be the most extreme solution possible during extreme cold spells.
Neighborhoods could thus be without electricity for up to two hours. One thing is certain: the cut will be general, it will not target a house that overconsumes! The Prime Minister stressed that there was no question of policing the French to punish them in the event of bad practice. We are therefore not going to look at how you recharge your Zoé and we are not going to ask you to use it less.
The situation will require some adaptations, such as not starting your charge around 7 p.m. when you arrive in your garage, but later, when you go to bed. The government precisely wishes to promote the consumption of electricity at night and has asked suppliers to work on formulas that encourage the French to shift their consumption.
Many owners of electric vehicles are already taking advantage of this advantage, especially since it is easy to program the time of charging their car. This particular winter could also require new habits from electric vehicle drivers, such as thinking about splitting home charging over shorter periods to regain the minimum level of energy necessary for the next day’s journey.
On the public charging side, if neighborhoods are deprived of electricity, the terminals could be HS. Can the government also regulate access to fast charging stations? Hard to imagine, this affects the mobility of the French, it would be like closing service stations. On the other hand, businesses could pause their terminals in their car park to reduce their electricity consumption during the day, this service being ancillary to them.