France may restart coal-fired power plant ahead of winter energy spike

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The French government is mulling the reopening of a coal-fired power plant in the north-eastern Lorraine region this winter, as a precaution against power outages as Europe braces for an energy crisis due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

France's energy ministry said in a written statement on Sunday: "As a precautionary measure, given the situation in Ukraine, we are reserving the option to reactivate the Saint Avold plant ... if needed this winter."

The ministry added that the plans will not affect the phasing out of coal plants in France, noting the power plant's operator would offset carbon emissions through measures like reforestation.

The ministry also underlined that electricity production from coal in France will remain below one percent.

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has thrown the spotlight on the Europe's reliance on Russian gas, prompting a scramble to find alternative energy sources.

The heads of France's big energy companies on Sunday urged individuals and businesses to limit power consumption immediately to prepare for a looming energy crisis.

No Russian coal will be used in the Saint Avold plant, the ministry said Sunday.

France, Europe brace for impact

Meanwhile, France's finance minister Bruno Le Maire has said that France is working on various energy contingency plans because of cuts to gas flows from Russia which have hit the European market but it has not yet had to put them into action.

Speaking on Monday, Le Maire said talks were already underway on the issue with French Energy Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher, although details have still to be finalised.

Le Maire told RMC Radio that "(...) We will determine which companies are of the most strategic importance, namely those for whom we can allow gas to be cut off and those for whom we cannot allow any cuts."

"The moderation in energy consumption is now unavoidable, there is no alternative. The solution can only be found through a collective effort".

Last week European Union leaders agreed to boost preparations for further cuts in Russian gas, accusing Moscow of "weaponising" energy via a supply squeeze which Germany warned could partly shut its industry.

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