France has today (April 8) published a decree that will enable the country to cut the gas supply of the highest consumers as a “last resort” in case of service interruption.
Targeted gas cuts will be enabled should there be a service stoppage of Russian gas next winter, the gas distribution network GRDF has announced along with the government.
The decree is a “last resort”, the ecology minister said, and has been made in preparation for hypothetical shortages this coming winter.
The decree only covers the highest consumers, who use more than five gigawatt-hours per year. The government states that only “around 5,000” users will be concerned by the measure.
It will not affect individual households.
As part of the decree, larger consumers will be asked for information on their usage, the “economic consequences they would suffer in case of the reduction or stoppage of their gas consumption”, and a way to contact them in case of any planned stoppages.
These high consumers must reply within two months, or face a fine.
In case of need, the stoppages will be done in order or priority, to avoid users that would suffer severe consequences if gas is cut off, and to avoid cuts to important frontline services (such as hospitals, retirement homes and schools).
Currently, GRDF has said that there is no risk from possible Russian gas stoppages.
Laurence Poirier-Dietz, GRDF director-general, said: “[There are] no consequences currently] because we are at the end of winter. [However] the question becomes more pertinent looking at the replenishing of stocks, which happens during the winter.”
Targeted stoppages for high consumers could also happen as a last resort with electricity, to avoid a general and unexpected power cut if electricity demand exceeds availability at a given time.
If this is not enough to ensure supply, the country could move to controlled power cuts in around 200,000 homes at a time, for two hours each.
It comes after government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said on March 8 that the option of cutting off Russian gas as a form of sanctions against the country is a “legitimate” option.
He said: “We need to take as many sanctions as possible. Everything is on the table.”
However, he added that with France accessing less than 20% of its gas from Russia, it is in a better position to say this than other EU countries, such as Germany (around 55%) or Finland (close to 100%).