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How to check when electricity usage is under strain in France

Online electricity monitoring service Ecowatt sends alerts. If everyone turned off just one light, it could save the equivalent of an entire power station 

A close-up photo of an electricity meter

The Ecowatt service offers warnings and alert to help people reduce their electricity consumption Pic: Sashkin / Shutterstock

The French government has reminded people of Ecowatt, a service that shows the state of electricity consumption in France, and encourages people to reduce their usage. 

The service has been in existence since 2020 but is highly likely to become more widely used amid soaring energy prices this winter.

Ecology Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher reminded people of the service during a press conference last week.

She called the service the “Bison Futé of electricity”. Bison Futé is a traffic information and forecast service in France, typically used by holidaymakers to check the status of major roads in France during peak weekends and seasons.

The Ecowatt website, which describes itself as “the weather forecast of electricity” shows whether the electricity system is normal, strained, or very strained. It then invites people to adapt their usage accordingly.  

Credit: MonEcowatt.fr/Screenshot

For example, it could be used as you prepare to set off your dishwasher or washing machine.

The service also sends alerts to its subscribers, including a ‘power cut alert’ warning, either by text or email. 

Alerts may also be issued via companies and media, as Ecowatt is currently working on establishing partnerships for this purpose. For example, supermarket Carrefour has already started sending its clients and employees ‘red alerts’ to invite them to make savings in its shops.

Around 30-40 other businesses may follow suit.

It comes as RTE (the electricity network le Réseau de transport d'électricité), which created Ecowatt, said that it could not completely rule out the use of targeted blackouts this winter. However, it added that these would not apply to the entire country.

It said: "In the rare cases where all the electricity needs cannot be covered, local, controlled blackouts lasting a maximum of two hours could be organised. 

“This winter, Ecowatt expects to send ‘strain’ alerts between 10 and 30 times between October and March. The variables? Electricity production, import capacity and winter temperatures.”

Upon receiving an alert, consumers can choose to reduce power consumption in their homes. Ecowatt calls these “eco-actions” and lists them on its website. They could include: 

  • Reducing the temperature of the heating system in the home

  • Reducing lighting

  • Moderating the use of cooking appliances

  • Postponing the use of the washing machine

It already invites people to save electricity during peak times, between 08:00-13:00 and 18:00-20:00. 

Read more: France to offer cheap electricity to those who cut usage during peaks 

In April 2022, the service sent an ‘orange alert’ to its subscribers, and said that it successfully led to an instant drop in consumption nationwide.  

RTE said: “If every household in France turned off a lightbulb, this would save 600 MW on a national scale, ie. the power of a coal-fired power station, or the equivalent of the consumption of 600,000 people.”

A similar alert system will soon be in place for gas, said Ms Pannier-Runacher. It will be called Ecogaz, and run by GRTgaz.

Related articles

French energy companies call for immediate action to cut back on usage  

‘Reduce energy consumption to avoid rationing in France’, says Macron

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