the challenge of sobriety

Thursday, October 6, France presented its energy sobriety strategy, which aims to reduce the country’s annual energy consumption by 10% by 2024. However, the plan does not include any legally binding measures, which is in a direct contradiction to a new regulation unanimously approved by EU members a week ago.

An update on the situation

During the press conference held to announce the plan, Minister for Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher said: “ The watchword is clear: general mobilization. After the introduction in June by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne of an energy sobriety program for each sector of the French economy in response to the energy crisis and the vulnerabilities of the national electricity network, these measures are the result of four months of deliberation.

The government has planned 15 major initiatives to reduce energy consumption by 10% in two years. These efforts range from lowering the maximum authorized temperature for office heating to 19 degrees Celsius to encouraging carpooling. The plan also includes specific measures for each of the nine economic and social sectors that are central to the initiative.

These sectors include the State, businesses and trade unions, establishments open to the public and supermarkets, industry, accommodation, transport, digital and telecommunications, sport and local authorities. In addition, individuals will be invited to adopt ” eco-gestures“, such as reducing the time spent in the shower and switching off household appliances when they have been on standby for too long.

Acting “on the wide range of energy savings” is the main focus of the Prime Minister’s action in this area.

Energy sobriety: no binding measures

Even though the government is certain of the specific obligation to reduce energy consumption during peak hours – between 8am and noon and between 6pm and 8pm – it does not set legally binding targets. On Thursday, Ms Pannier-Runacher said in an interview with RTL that there would be no temperature police.

energy consumption (energy mix)

Nevertheless, in the roadmap it presented on September 14, the Commission set as a mandatory target a 5% reduction in electricity consumption at peak times. In addition, in July, European Union member states reached an agreement to reduce their gas consumption by 15% in response to Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine.

After a political agreement was reached between the 27 EU energy ministers the previous Friday, the official adoption of the electricity demand reduction target took place on Thursday evening. And although Member States will continue to have the freedom to choose the appropriate enforcement measures, the 5% target will still be legally enforceable. Only Malta and Cyprus have benefited from an exception to this rule.

“We are not on the right track.”

While Pannier-Runacher argued on RTL that high energy prices would spur businesses and households to act, Thierry Bros, energy professor at Science-Po Paris, was less optimistic. Mr. Pannier-Runacher argued that high energy prices would prompt businesses and households to act.

Mr Bros told EURACTIV that despite the high costs, TotalEnergies service stations had nevertheless seen an influx of customers, which had the effect of both accelerating supply tensions and maintaining demand levels.

According to his explanations, sobriety measures are generally controversial, especially if the reduction is to be maintained over a period of two years. A drop in primary energy consumption equal to that seen during the COVID-19 lockdowns, as the economy grew at a slower pace, would be comparable to a 10% reduction in that consumption.

Bros also mentioned that the rate of decline in consumption in France over the past ten years was 1% on an annual basis. He said that for France to achieve the goals it has set itself, ” we will have to go five times faster in the next two years. »

According to the professor, we are not on the right track and he came to the conclusion that in the absence of mandatory measures, he ” is not conceivable » to reach the 10% objective. However, the government estimates that the package of actions will reduce consumption by around fifty terawatt hours (TWh) on an annual basis.

According to Ms Pannier-Runacher on RTL, this is also the first step towards carbon neutrality, which will require a reduction in energy consumption of 40% by 2050. In addition, the government is convinced that these measures will not have a negative impact on the economy.

In his remarks at the press conference, Mr. Borne clarified that “ energy sobriety does not mean […] choose to restrict production. »


People with low wages but above-average energy consumption, which is often linked to poor home insulation, are those who feel the effects the most. Friends of the Earth has ranked the 8,927 communities in order of their likelihood of being negatively affected by the current energy crisis. These are what we call the “hot spots” of the energy question.

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