French Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne says households will not experience gas cuts this winter despite the possibility of shortages.
“We are not going to cut off gas to French households,” she said in an interview on TMC’s programme Quotidien on Tuesday (August 30).
“It's our companies, the big consumers, that could be cut off. And obviously, this would have economic and social consequences.
“I don't think anyone wants that. Anything we can do to voluntarily reduce our consumption will save us from having to make cuts this coming winter."
Much of Europe is experiencing difficulties in importing gas and oil as tensions with major gas supplier Russia remain high, following the country’s move to invade Ukraine in February this year.
Last year, Russia supplied around 40% of the EU’s natural gas. The EU now has plans to phase out its use of Russian gas and oil entirely by 2030.
Ms Borne said that France could be hit with gas cuts this winter if “all the bad scenarios converge”.
“If Russia cuts its supplies, if there are tensions on LNG (liquefied natural gas) supplies, if the orders we have placed are not honoured, if there is a very cold winter…”
Gas stocks at 90%
France’s gas stocks are already around 90% full for this coming winter, data from the European platform Aggregated Gas Storage Inventory shows.
Government spokesman Olivier Véran said on Tuesday that the country is on track to meet its 100% target and should achieve that by the “end of the summer”.
He told Franceinfo that it did not mean that France would “have enough gas to get through the winter if the Russians cut it off and if a lot of gas is consumed”.
Russia to cut gas supplies to Engie
Russian state-owned gas company Gazprom has announced that it will “completely cut” gas supplies to French energy company Engie from Thursday (September 1) because of a lack of payment for July deliveries.
“Gazprom Export has notified Engie of a complete suspension of gas deliveries from September 1, 2022 until full receipt of the financial amounts due for the deliveries,” the group announced on Tuesday.
Engie has not yet formally replied to this announcement but did state that it “had already secured the volumes necessary to meet its commitment towards its customers and its own requirements
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Engie stated that Gazprom had notified the company of further reductions on supplies due to “a disagreement between the parties on the application of contracts”.
Russian gas deliveries to Engie have already fallen considerably since Russia invaded Ukraine, recently dropping to just 1.5 TWh per month, Engie stated. Gazprom supplied 121 TWh of gas to Engie in 2021, Politico reported.
The group, which is the main gas supplier in France and which the state has a 24% stake in, added that Europe’s total annual gas supplies amount to more than 400 TWh.
French Prime Minister Ms Borne said of Gazprom’s announcement that “we need to reassure Engie’s customers – Engie has other sources of supply than Russian gas”.
"Generally speaking, we are trying to organise ourselves and prepare in case of a general cut in gas supply by Russia,” she said.
Elsewhere, Russia today went ahead with a shutdown of its Nord Stream 1 pipeline which supplies Europe as part of a pre-planned maintenance closure.
It means that no gas will flow to Germany until September 3.
There are fears that Russia could delay the maintenance stoppage further to put further pressure on Europe.