Households in France should prepare for electricity price rises this winter but not, as in 2022, for power cuts, the head of energy distributor Enedis has stated.
“This year we are very confident about the conditions going into winter, by which I mean the balance between what is produced and what is consumed in France,” Marianne Laigneau said on Radio Classique.
Power cuts were such a concern last year that in December 2022 President Macron called for an end to alarmist scenarios of a cold, dark winter.
“EDF’s job is to run the power plants; the government’s job is to make a strategy; and everyone’s job is to follow energy sobriety,” he said.
The government’s ‘Energy Sobriety Plan’, released in October 2022 targeted a 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2024. One of the notable suggestions of the plan was for people to reduce their heating by two degrees, from 19 to 17°C.
To allow people to track the risk of power cuts, the government launched EcoWatt, which describes itself as “a weather forecast for electricity production”.
Ms Laigneau says people heeded the call for restraint.
“Enedis measured a reduction of around 9% [that winter] in the average energy use compared with previous years. We can see this effect in every sector of the economy, in businesses and homes, which means there is a shift in mentality taking place.”
Much of the concern last year surrounding electricity production was due to the combined effect of the war in Ukraine and ongoing maintenance at France’s ageing nuclear reactors.
In February 2023, when electricity demand for heating was highest, 32 of France’s 56 nuclear reactors were offline subject to upgrading or undergoing scheduled maintenance.
“This year the forecast for electricity production is good, both for nuclear and hydraulic energy,” said Ms Laigneau.
The number of active nuclear reactors has increased, with only 18 offline, which should mean France has 38 active this winter compared to 24 in December 2022.
What does this mean for prices?
Power cuts were not the only spectre to haunt French homes last winter. Increases in the price of electricity were seemingly inevitable for most people, and for some the fear of massive rises have become reality.
France has, though, so far avoided the eye-watering price increases seen in many of its European neighbours thanks to the government’s price shield, without which prices would have risen by 100%. However, this is scheduled to be phased out by the end of 2024.
Read more: Electricity bills in France to rise by 10% from August 1
Ms Laigneau says that the increased prices should be considered part of the wider trend “intertwined with global warming and the growing desire to avoid fossil fuels.”
Prices will not decrease, and with the removal of the government’s price shield, people should brace for higher bills this winter.
The head of Enedis also declared a positive result with Linky meters.
“We have installed 36.5 million Linky meters in more than 90% of French homes. People are satisfied with them, as they help manage their electrical use”.
The meters had faced significant opposition since their introduction in 2016, with opponents claiming that they caused health issues.