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ENERGY

‘Ecowatt’: How you should use France’s new energy forecasting website?

The French government has encouraged people to use the website 'Ecowatt' to keep track of energy use this winter, in an attempt to stave off shortages and possible power cuts. But how does it work and how can I sign-up?

'Ecowatt': How you should use France's new energy forecasting website?
A worker of French power grid operator Enedis repairs electricity lines in Plozevet, Brittany. (Photo by Fred TANNEAU / AFP)

People across France will have to get into the habit of checking two forecasts in the mornings this winter: one for weather, and the other for energy. 

As the country grapples with possible energy shortages this winter, the government has launched ‘Ecowatt’ – an electricity consumption forecasting website – that alerts users of possible localised power cuts in real time. 

The website is in French, but it is relatively user friendly. Predictions are split into colours: green (energy consumption can continue as normal); orange (the electrical grid is strained, individuals are encouraged to reduce energy consumption); and red (the electrical grid is very strained, and short localised power cuts could be possible without a reduction in energy usage). 

If the electrical system is under significant enough stress (at the ‘red’ level), then alerts will be sent out to those who have enrolled on the site. 

Keep in mind that individuals and households are encouraged, but not required, to decrease their energy use. The site will serve to inform users about the status of the electrical grid. 

On the main page, when you go to the website “https://www.monecowatt.fr” you can see the forecast for the next four days, as shown below. 

READ MORE: LATEST: France to set maximum 15 percent gas and electricity price rises for 2023

It also shows the forecast for the next 24 hours, so users will be able to see whether there are any times of the day where the grid will be under stress.

Screenshot of the Ecowatt website

Then, when you scroll down, you can see a map of the country. This map is also colour-coded in the green, orange, red scheme.

Screenshot of Ecowatt website

On the map, you will be able to the energy forecast for your region specifically. As power cuts are not expected to be on a country-wide scale, the map will likely be of particular importance to know whether there is any risk of electricity cuts in your area. 

Regarding localised power cuts – France’s national electricity provider, RTE, told Le Journal du Dimanche that “in rare cases where electricity needs cannot be covered, then local, controlled outages lasting up to 2 hours could be organized.”

Signing up for the website

In order to receive alerts, you must register on the site with your phone number and email. According to Le Parisien, alerts will likely not come in the form of notifications directly to your smartphone.

Screenshot of Ecowatt sign-up page

There is currently no mobile app version of Ecowatt, though RTE told Le Parisien that it was “under development” and the goal is “to have it up and running by this winter.”

Another option for checking your own consumption levels are the mobile applications offered by EDF and Enedis, which also offer this service for clients.

OPINION: France cannot afford to keep shielding consumers from energy price rises

Why is this necessary?

As France grapples with possible energy shortages this winter, the government hopes that this website will help avoid power cuts.

According to RTE, in order to avoid power cuts, it will be necessary to “reduce national [energy] consumption by one to five percent in most cases, and up to 15 percent in extreme weather situations.”

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Will there be energy rationing in France this winter?

Ecowatt was originally launched in 2008 in Brittany and then extended to the whole of France in 2020. As of mid-September, over 115,000 users had registered for the site across the country. Minister for Environment, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, announced that the Ecowatt device was set to be officially integrated into the government’s ‘energy sobriety’ strategy starting September 22nd. 

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ENERGY

French natural gas reserves full ahead of winter

France's natural gas reserves have reached full capacity, a regulator said Wednesday, warning that consumers should still reduce energy use as Europe prepares for a winter mostly shorn of Russian supplies.

French natural gas reserves full ahead of winter

France becomes the third EU nation after Belgium and Portugal to maximise its reserves, well ahead of a government deadline set for November.

Across the EU, gas reserves stand at an average level of 89 percent.

Countries have spent the months since Russia’s February 24 attack on Ukraine scrambling for alternative sources of fuel, including imports of liquid natural gas (LNG).

“The campaign to refill gas storage for winter 2022-23 is complete, with storage more than 99 percent full,” the Energy Regulation Commission (CRE) said in a statement.

READ ALSO French electricity firms offer bonuses for cutting back this winter

With 130 terawatt-hours (TWh) of gas in stock, higher than the average seen in recent years, France’s supply amounts to around two-thirds of winter consumption by small- to medium-sized businesses and households, the CRE said.

But the body also urged a “massive collective effort to reduce our energy consumption” as supplies could still run tight depending on the winter weather, saying companies, government, local authorities and members of the public must all contribute.

“To prepare for possible tense situations in the coming months, reasonable use of the reserves as well as an effort to limit consumption… seem necessary beginning immediately,” gas storage firms Storengy and Terega agreed in a joint statement.

Most of France’s gas reserves are stored in natural underground spaces such as aquifers dotted around the country.

Russia cut off deliveries of natural gas to France — which has strongly backed sanctions and military aid to Ukraine over Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour – from September 1.

Paris is expected on Thursday to present its “energy sobriety plan” aimed at slashing consumption by 10 percent in two years.

READ ALSO French minister advises: ‘Wear a turtleneck sweater this winter’

Looking to the coming months, Storengy and Terega said that the country’s gas supply could remain “balanced overall” in an “average winter” – although there was “little room for manoeuvre”.

But a severe or lasting cold snap could leave supply short of demand by around five percent, forcing measures to cut usage.

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