France’s top three energy suppliers have called households and businesses to prepare to ration electricity and gas as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine fuels fears of shortages this winter.
In an unusual intervention, the bosses of Engie, EDF and TotalEnergies, appealed to French households and businesses to limit consumption of energy, electricity, gas and oil products.
Catherine MacGregor, chief executive of Engie; Jean-Bernard Lévy, who heads up EDF; and Patrick Pouyanné, chairman of TotalEnergies; made the plea in French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche.
They said: “For months now, the European energy system has been under great strain and the French energy system has not been spared. Russian gas deliveries by pipeline have fallen sharply for some countries, including France.
“Although increasing, imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) are still too limited to compensate for these decreases. The alert level for gas stocks at the European level is therefore high and rationing measures have been put in place in some countries.
“The soaring energy prices that result from these difficulties threaten our social and political cohesion and impact too heavily on the purchasing power of families.”
Fears have been growing on the Continent that building up energy reserves and diversifying production will not be enough as the bloc weans itself off Russian imports.
Other EU countries are preparing to ration energy, such as Germany and the Netherlands. France is less dependent than its neighbour on Russian gas deliveries as it covers close to 70pc of its electricity needs from nuclear energy.
Officials are yet to set out how rationing would work in practice, though it is thought to include restrictions on usage being imposed on businesses and households during morning and evening peaks.
Earlier this month, Fatih Birol, executive director at the International Energy Agency, said he could not rule out rationing needing to be put in place this winter.
But the trio of executives are now bringing rationing one step closer to reality in France.
They said: “The best energy is the energy we do not consume. Collectively, we must act on energy demand by reducing our consumption in order to give ourselves more room to manoeuvre.
“Taking action this summer will allow us to be better prepared to face the next winter and in particular to preserve our gas reserves.
“We are therefore calling for awareness and collective and individual action so that each of us - each consumer, each company - changes his or her behaviour and immediately limits his or her consumption of energy, electricity, gas and oil products.
“The effort must be immediate, collective and massive.”
It comes as UK households and businesses face having to foot the bill for carbon emissions emitted by coal-fired power plants asked to stay open this winter.
Coal-fired stations due to close in September have been asked to stay open for longer to provide back-up supply if needed amid fears that Russia will cut off gas supplies to Europe.
They are being paid to do so by National Grid which will ultimately recoup the costs from consumers under the normal arrangements for procuring backup supply.
Power generators are subject to an emissions trading scheme which means they have to pay for carbon emissions beyond a certain limit.
It is believed National Grid’s deal with EDF to keep the West Burton A station open beyond its planned closure in September includes covering any emissions costs.
The deal is thought to be worth tens of millions overall. Negotiations are ongoing with Drax and Uniper over keeping their coal-fired units open, too.
The carbon trading scheme is designed to help make polluting industries less economic and push them towards cleaner alternatives.
It is considered a key driver in cutting the amount of coal used in the UK’s electricity system, from about 70pc in 1990 to less than 3pc last year.
However, this winter coal-fired plants are being encouraged to stay online due to concerns about energy security.
The costs of energy for households and business is hugely sensitive amid record energy bills.
Household energy bills jumped 54pc to £1,971 annually on average in April and are expected to climb a further more than 40pc to £2,800 when the price cap is reset in October.
The Government declined to comment.