French Minister of Economy, Finance, Industry and Digital Security Bruno le Maire talks to reporters as he leaves after a working meeting with the French Prime Minister and members of the government at the Matignon hotel in Paris, France, June 21, 2022. REUTERS/ Benoît Tessier

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PARIS, June 27 (Reuters) – France is working on energy contingency plans to deal with gas cuts from Russia as the bosses of its main energy companies have urged individuals and businesses to reduce their consumption of gas. energy to prepare for an impending energy crisis.

France is less dependent than some of its European neighbors on gas imports from Russia, which account for around 17% of its gas consumption.

But concerns over supply from Russia come as France grapples with already constrained power generation due to unexpected maintenance issues at some of the country’s aging nuclear reactors, raising concerns over a winter crisis.

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European Union leaders last week agreed to speed up preparations for further Russian gas cuts, accusing Moscow of “weaponizing” energy via a supply squeeze that Germany says will could partially shut down its industry. Read more

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Monday that the government was working on energy emergency plans but had not yet had to implement them.

“We will determine which are the most strategic companies, namely those for which we can authorize the gas cut and those for which we cannot authorize any cut,” Le Maire told RMC Radio, without giving further details.

“We are working on different scenarios, but at the moment this (rationing) is not the base case,” a finance ministry source said.

In April, the gas transmission network operator GRTgaz indicated that it had put in place measures that could be invoked to limit the supply of gas to customers in the event of a shortage, and called on suppliers to fill underground storage before the next winter. Read more

So-called load shedding is the voluntary stopping of consumption to help cover supply shortfalls, usually determined by contracts with industry in the event of excess demand.

French gas users whose consumption exceeds 5 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year would be the first group impacted by load shedding, the company had indicated.

These include major industrial sites in the refining, chemical and glass sectors as well as shopping centers and stadiums.

Last week, France announced that it would aim to fill its gas storage facilities by early autumn from 59% now and that it would set up an offshore terminal to receive liquefied natural gas ( LNG) at the northern port of Le Havre in September 2023.

The Mayor said on Monday he supported an unusual call by the heads of France’s major energy companies to individuals and businesses to immediately limit energy consumption.

“We must work collectively to reduce our consumption in order to regain room for manoeuvre”, declared the CEOs of Engie (ENGIE.PA), EDF (EDF.PA) and TotalEnergies (TTEF.PA) in an open letter published by weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche.

The letter signed by Catherine MacGregor of Engie, Jean-Bernard Levy of EDF and Patrick Pouyanne of TotalEnergies mentioned a sharp drop in Russian gas supply as well as limited electricity production due to maintenance problems.

“The soaring energy prices resulting from these difficulties threaten our social and political cohesion and weigh too heavily on the purchasing power of families. This is why we are launching this joint appeal,” they write.

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Reporting by Tassilo Hummel; edited by Gareth Jones and Jason Neely

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