Macron says "no panic" about possible French power cuts

French President Emmanuel Macron delivers a speech at the Sub-Prefecture in Saint-Nazaire after a visit at the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm, off the coast of the Guerande peninsula in western France, September 22, 2022. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/Pool

PARIS, Dec 3 (Reuters) - French President Emmanuel Macron said there was no reason to panic about possible power cuts this winter, but he called on citizens to use less energy and on state utility EDF to restart nuclear reactors to prevent outages in case of cold weather.

In an interview with French TV station TF1 recorded during his state visit to the United States this week, Macron denied that the risk of rolling blackouts was due to inadequate management of EDF's (EDF.PA) nuclear reactor restart programme.

"First of all, let us be clear: no panic! It is legitimate for the government to prepare for the extreme cases which would mean cutting off electricity for a few hours per day if we did not have enough power," Macron said.

EDF has faced an unprecedented number of outages at its fleet of nuclear reactors following repair work, reducing nuclear output to a 30-year low just as Europe scrambles to replace Russian gas supplies, which Moscow cut off in retaliation for EU sanctions imposed over its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.

The head of French power grid operator RTE said on Thursday that France may face "some days" of power cuts this winter and the government has started briefing local authorities on how to handle any outages.

"These are fictitious scenarios, but if all of us adhere to the sobriety plan presented by the prime minister a few months ago, and notably reduce our consumption by 10 pct compared to normal levels ... and if EDF continues its work...then yes we can get through this period, even if the months of December and January turn out to be cold," Macron said.

French media have run stories about how to prepare for blackouts, suggesting buying candles, leaving fridges and freezers shut and charging up mobile phones.

Analysts say that cold weather could lead to power cuts as soon as early as Monday, as delays to the restart of the nuclear reactors have left supply lagging demand.

RTE's online power availability forecasting tool Ecowatt on Saturday showed no warnings of possible tension on the French power grids for the four days ahead to Tuesday.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel

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