French businesses put on notice as threat of power rationing looms

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French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne on Monday told French companies to get “energy sober”, warning that businesses – not households – would be the first affected by potential electricity rationing ahead of the winter.

In an eagerly awaited speech to business leaders at a Meeting of Entrepreneurs of France (Medef) event in Paris, Borne instructed companies to start making plans for power savings before October.

The move comes as Europe braces for energy shortages brought about by a disruption of gas supplies from Russia, which has been hit by sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine.

If Russia were to cut off its exports completely, Europe would run out of gas this winter.

“Mobilise and act," was the message given by Borne as she told businesses that France was “entering an era of collective responsibility” in the face of the energy crisis, adding “we will succeed together or we will fail together”.

France’s ecological transition needed to become a "central criterion of every decision" Borne said. The government’s preferred path, though, was to enforce energy savings rather than impose energy cuts.

'Energy ambassador'

Each company has been asked to appoint an “ambassador of energy sobriety” with a view to laying out internal plans for cutting down on electricity.

Due in October, a first assessment of those plans would inform expert forecasts that would give authorities “a clearer vision of the risks of rationing”.

"We will work sector by sector”, Borne said. “Each sector will have greenhouse gas reduction targets and will have to define a precise implementation schedule with milestones.

“You are innovators; you have gone through and overcome other transformations, other revolutions. And we're going to help you do this.”

More binding measures could be triggered if a 10 percent energy savings target is not met and if Russia shuts down gas supplies completely.

Ahead of her speech, Borne told Le Parisien that companies would also be subject to "common sense" constraints to meet the government's requirement for energy sobriety.

Two decrees are being examined at the Council of State including banning illuminated advertising posters at night and forcing air-conditioned shops to close their doors.