French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday called for a 10% reduction in the nation’s energy usage, with any mandatory consumption limits on the table as a “last resort.”
The news comes after Russia cut off natural gas shipments through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline over the weekend and called for the removal of sanctions imposed in reaction to the country’s war in Ukraine. Natural gas prices in much of Europe have increased more than tenfold compared to normal levels, prompting various nations to encourage lower usage among households and businesses.
“The answer is up to us,” Macron told reporters after a conference call with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. He urged residents of France to use air conditioning and heating a “bit less than usual” to avoid power outages — such as by keeping indoor temperatures no more than 19 degrees Celsius, roughly 66 degrees Fahrenheit, through the winter. Meanwhile, the French government is preparing energy rationing initiatives that could be implemented “as a last resort.”
The legislature of Spain has already mandated that public air conditioning be set no lower than 27 degrees Celsius, roughly 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit, through the summer months.
Last week, finance ministers of the G7 nations — which include France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States — reaffirmed a plan to impose a price cap on Russian oil. The move is meant to “significantly reduce Russia’s main source of funding for its illegal war,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
The Russian government has since threatened to retaliate over the price cap, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov confirming to reporters that the nation may resume gas shipments via Nord Stream 1 if sanctions are eased.
“Problems with gas supply arose because of the sanctions imposed on our country by Western states, including Germany and Britain,” Peskov said. “We see incessant attempts to shift responsibility and blame onto us. We categorically reject this and insist that the collective West — in this case, the European Union, Canada, and the United Kingdom — is to blame for the fact that the situation has reached the point where it is now.”
Klaus-Dieter Maubach, the CEO of German energy company Uniper, told CNBC in a recent interview that natural gas prices could continue to soar without collective action. “What we see on the wholesale market is 20 times the price that we have seen two years ago,” he remarked. “That is why I think we need to have really an open discussion with everyone taking responsibility on how to fix that.”
Maubach, whose firm is slated to be acquired by the German government in a $15 billion rescue deal, said he regrets defending Russian state energy conglomerate Gazprom as a reliable gas provider. “That, in hindsight, maybe it was even a mistake to think that gas would not be used. Maybe it was just wishful thinking,” he commented. “I think this partnership is broken and I don’t think that we can reestablish that in the next weeks, months and years to come. So, we are focusing on replacing Russian gas.”
Indeed, Germany — the largest economy in Europe — imported roughly 55% of its natural gas from Russia before the invasion of Ukraine and has since reduced its dependence to 35%. German gas supplies, however, are currently slated to last only three months if Russia continues to pause all exports.
The European Union has formally adopted the official policy of becoming “a climate-neutral society” by 2050 in accordance with the European Green Deal and the Paris Agreement.