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ENERGY

‘Ecowatt’: How to use France’s new energy forecasting website and app

The French government has encouraged people to use 'Ecowatt' - accessible both as a website and mobile application 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 to use France's new energy forecasting website and app
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 and mobile application – that alerts users of possible localised power cuts in real time. 

The website

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

The mobile application

You can download the app “écowatt” either through Google Play or the App Store. Once downloaded, you can choose whether or not to receive notifications – these will send you an alert if the electrical grid is “orange” or “red.” 

Screenshot of the Ecowatt app

The app is quite simple. On its main page, you will see a prediction for the next three days, as shown above. You can also click “J’accède aux éco-gestes” to see the recommended steps you can take to reduce your energy consumption, from keeping indoor temperatures to a maximum 19C to covering pots and pans while cooking.

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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PROTESTS

French bakers protest over surging power prices

Dressed in aprons and brandishing baguettes, hundreds of bakers demonstrated in the streets of Paris on Monday to warn that the country's beloved bread and croissant makers were under threat from surging electricity and raw material costs.

French bakers protest over surging power prices

“We feel like there’s a huge injustice,” said Sylvie Leduc from the rural Dordogne region who had travelled to the capital for the protest. “We know how to run a business, that’s not a problem, but we’re faced with increases that are just impossible to pass on to customers.”

The protest was yet another sign of the anger and incomprehension felt by many French people over the sudden price hikes linked to the war in Ukraine, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic that hit global supply chains.

Bakers were already struggling with higher butter and flour costs, while the price of eggs has also spiked because of a national bird flu outbreak that has hit many French farms.

The final straw for many of the country’s 35,000 bakeries has been the annual renewal of their electricity contracts, with suppliers suddenly asking for astronomical monthly payments in 2023.

READ MORE: Boulangeries across France face closure as energy bills skyrocket

Leduc’s husband Jean-Philippe said their power bill had increased six-fold in January, meaning they could hang on for only a few more months before being forced to close — unless financial help arrived. 

“Thirty years of being a baker and it’s going to finish like this? I could never have imagined it,” he said, shaking his head. “We don’t want hand-outs, we just want to be able to live from our work.” 

For the French, their local bakery is about more than simple food shopping: they serve as a symbol of the national way of life, while providing a focal point for many communities.

“The day starts with a baguette!” former presidential candidate Jean Lassalle, an ardent defender of traditional rural French communities, told AFP at the rally.

“These people are the ones who get up the earliest in France and they’ve had enough.”

‘Bakeries in Danger’

Given the emotional attachment to French bread, the government of President Emmanuel Macron has sought to highlight the help on offer for small business owners.

Macron welcomed bakers to the presidential palace on January 6, telling them: “I’m on your side”.

He outlined various government schemes which could help bring down electricity bills by 40 percent for eligible businesses.

But many of those demonstrating said the different systems put in place were either too complicated, too slow to deliver help, or  available for only the smallest bakeries with less than 12 employees, for example.

Some carried banners reading “Bakeries in Danger”, while one man pushed a wooden coffin on wheels with a skeleton inside dressed in a baker’s apron and trousers.

Many said they had always accepted the long hours, lack of sleep and gruelling physical labour out of the love for the profession, but felt compelled to hit the streets now.

“I’ve never seen bakers protest before,” said Joelle Reimel, 56, who said her monthly power bill for her bakery 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of Paris had increased from €2,500 a month to €14,000.

“We don’t have time to demonstrate normally. We’re up at 2am and go to bed at 8 in the evening.”

Pension protests

The protest came after one of the biggest demonstrations in decades last Thursday when more than a million people protested against an unpopular pension reform that will raise the age of retirement to 64 for most people.

Macron’s opponents have sought to pin the blame for electricity rises on him and European Union rules which mean power prices across the bloc are linked to the price of gas, even if the electricity is generated from other sources.

Anti-immigration and eurosceptic leader Marine Le Pen has assailed the “refusal of Emmanuel Macron to break from the absurd European rules on the electricity market.”

Macron has acknowledged that European electricity pricing rules are “flawed” and has promised to reform them.

For Lionel Bonnamy, the fate of France’s bakeries is also about the country’s economic model, which has long sought to protect small shopkeepers and artisans — what he called the “economic fabric” of the country.

“If we carry on this way, everything will look the same, uniform, big business,” said the award-winning baker from Paris.

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