Energy-intensive companies in France are converting their gas-fired boilers to run on oil because they want to avoid power outages in the event of a further reduction in Russian gas supplies.
At a conference on business and economics in France, several companies said they were preparing for possible power outages.
“What we’ve done is we’ve converted our boilers, so they’re capable of running on gas or oil, and we can even switch to coal if we need to,” said Florent Menegaux, the boss of Michelin, one of the world’s leading tyre-makers.
“The aim is to avoid having to shut down a plant in case we face a shortage,” he added, saying that while a gas shortage in Europe is likely, oil will still be available as an alternative.
Starting tire production at the plant takes days, Menego said, so it’s important to keep the power supply stable.
In June, Russia reduced gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline, the main gas delivery route to Western Europe, to 40% of capacity. Politicians and industry are concerned about further supply restrictions.
In Europe, industrial enterprises are starting to use fuels that are more polluting than gas, as it reduces the costs to the economy associated with business disruption and rising energy prices.
French finance minister Bruno Le Maire told senior executives at the conference that it would be irresponsible not to prepare for a deficit.
“Let’s prepare for a cut-off of Russian gas,” he told them. “Today it’s the most likely scenario.”
France uses nuclear power to produce about 70% of its electricity, meaning it is less directly dependent on Russian gas than neighboring Germany.
Meanwhile, state-controlled electricity producer EDF struggles to meet France’s needs as its aging power plants outage, putting pressure on the rest of the energy sector.
Energy production at 29 out of 56 nuclear reactors was stopped as a result of inspections and repairs.
The French government checks every company, which one depends on an uninterrupted power supply.
It also sought to reduce the impact of the energy price spike by capping retail gas and electricity prices until the end of the year, which helped keep French inflation at one of the lowest levels in Europe.
Carmaker Stellantis is considering options for generating its own energy in the event of an energy crisis, CEO Carlos Tavares said at the French plant.
Such options include building your own power plant or investing in an existing one to provide part of the production.
Former Polish energy minister Michal Kurtyka, whose country uses coal for 70% of its energy, told a conference of leaders that Europe is in for a “perfect storm” this winter.