French energy regulator does not expect gas supply problems

FILE PHOTO: French Economy and Finance Minister Le Maire arrives at the Elysee Palace in Paris
FILE PHOTO: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire arrives for a meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France, March 9, 2022. REUTERS/Sarah Meyssonnier/File Photo

March 30, 2022

PARIS (Reuters) -France should not have any problems with energy supplies, the head of the country’s CRE regulatory body said on Wednesday, adding that requests for users to be careful were normal.

Earlier, Germany declared an “early warning” of a possible gas supply emergency which was designed to prepare for the risk of disruption or stoppage of flows from Russia.

“Everything will be fine, the gas storage facilities are well filled, we’ll make it through the winter,” CRE head Jean-François Carenco told France’s BFM TV.

Germany’s announcement is the clearest sign yet that the European Union is preparing for supply disruptions after imposing sanction on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

The move comes as Moscow plans to introduce a new mechanism to switch payment for its gas to roubles and the European Commission has said it will work closely with EU countries to prepare for possible supply issues.

Laurence Poirier-Dietz, head of France’s leading natural gas distribution operator GRDF, told Les Echos newspaper that the country was bracing for possible Russian-linked supply disruption next winter.

“In case there is a total or partial suspension of Russian gas imports, which would be unprecedented, GRDF is ready to take exceptional measures to reduce consumption (…), ” she was quoted as saying.

GRDF distributes natural gas to more than 11 million customers every day for heating, cooking, mobility and industrial processes.

Among those customers, only large industrial clients or shopping malls would be asked, if needed, to reduce their demand, Poirier-Dietz said. Individual customers, public services and the military would be exempted from such a move.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told Europe 1 radio that France was preparing for “all possible scenarios”, including Russia halting gas exports to Europe.

“We must work on emergency solutions in case this decision is taken, even if this is not the central scenario,” he said.

(Reporting by Dominique Vidalon and Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Mark Potter and Alexander Smith)