Xavier Piechaczyk, president of Reseau de Transport d'Electricite (RTE), the country's largest electricity transmission system operator, said the country is experiencing prolonged issues with its nuclear power infrastructure. If these problems persist, energy shortages are all but certain.
Nearly half of France's nuclear power stations, all of which are owned and run by the majority state-owned utility company Electricite de France (EDF), are currently offline either as a result of corrosion problems or for routine maintenance. As of Monday, Nov. 14, only 32 of EDF's 56 nuclear-powered reactors were online. EDF hopes to bring the number of reactors online up to 43 by December, and 47 by January.
The massive decrease in the country's energy production due to the shutdown of nuclear reactors has turned the country, traditionally an exporter of power, into a massive energy importer this year. This energy crisis is forcing French residents to pay premium prices to their neighbors for electricity at a time when energy costs have already been skyrocketing. (Related: Refinery strikes and gas rationing: France's energy supply chain collapsing.)
If France's energy crisis doesn't get resolved soon, there are fears its effects will reverberate to its neighbors, especially the United Kingdom, which is one of several countries France trades electricity with to help balance out supplies on both sides.
Britain's National Grid has already warned that it may have to impose rolling power cuts if gas-fired power stations are unable to produce enough fuel and imports from Europe can't plug the gap.
Piechaczyk warned that even in the event of a "normal" winter, French residents will likely be called upon to ration energy. But if Europe does not get lucky with a milder winter this year, power cuts should be expected.
"We remain in a situation of particular vigilance. If it's hot, you won't hear about red Ecowatt," said Piechaczyk during an interview with French radio station Radio Classique. He is referring to the RTE's forecast of electricity supplies, which it published up to four days in advance to help the country manage energy stocks. If supplies are very tight, the Ecowatt publishes a red alert and calls on consumers to cut usage.
"If it's very cold, you'll hear a lot of them, and if we're in an average, median, normal winter, it will be a few units of red Ecowatt."
RTE is expected to update its assessment for the next four weeks in the next few days, based on the grid operator's latest projections for nuclear plant availability, current power consumption trends and weather forecasts, according to Piechaczyk. RTE's report will likely take a very cautious approach to nuclear plant availability, as history shows nuclear reactor maintenance can take far longer than planned.
Current forecasts suggest that the weather will remain "relatively mild until the end of November." Manufacturers cutting production quotas due to higher prices is also contributing to energy supplies.
"The fact that France is consuming less is giving us a bit of margin, but the nuclear fleet risks being even less available than we had foreseen, so we'll have to assess if that evens out," said Piechaczyk.
The French government has been preparing its citizens for potential energy shortages for the past few months. Back in September, President Emmanuel Macron urged citizens to cut down on energy usage to prevent future rationing. Macron has also ordered his government to develop plans for rationing "in case" they are needed and "as a last resort."
Learn more about the energy crisis in countries like France at NewEnergyReport.com.
Watch this clip from InfoWars with Harrison Smith discussing how European leaders are calling for lockdowns to bring down energy usage and electricity prices.