PARIS - Some French households and businesses are snapping up camping stoves, electricity generators and torches in case the lights go out this winter even though the country’s grid operator lowered to “medium” the risk to the country’s power supplies.
Energy supplies are stretched going into winter due to a record number of French nuclear reactor outages and disruption to Russian gas supplies, prompting government warnings of possible power cuts.
A net exporter of electricity to European neighbours, France turned into a net importer this year, as multiple reactors in its nuclear fleet, run by power utility EDF, have been shut down for maintenance and corrosion repairs.
Talk of power cuts prompted a surge in sales of generators, camping stoves and torches.
A similar wave of purchases was seen in neighbouring Britain after the National Grid warned in October that the country could face three-hour planned outages if it were unable to import electricity from Europe.
“The warehouses are practically empty,” said Armand Alexanian, general director of 2AST which owns electricity generator maker Gelec Energy, gesturing to a sprawling storage space in Plerin, a city in France’s Brittany region.
Gelec Energie builds the generators in Asia before shipping them to France for final processing before they are dispatched to clients.
By mid-December, normal stocks of between 450 to 600 generators had been drawn down to 180 – most of which had already been sold, to retailers, retirement homes, medical clinics and government offices, said Alexanian.
Guillaume Ordronneau, who manages a supermarket in La Verrie, in north-west France, recently received a generator he ordered in August, priced at 20,000 euros (S$28,700).
One power cut lasting two hours would result in a loss of 45,000 euros worth of fresh and frozen produce, an amount he said justified the price of the backup generator.
“I told myself it would be largely paid for,” he said.
Parisians stock up
Bastien Crouzillac, outdoor store manager at sporting goods chain Au Vieux Campeur in Paris, has seen new shoppers buy camping stoves, lanterns and strap-on headlamps that would customarily be sold to hikers.
“We’ve noticed a new Parisian clientele that is quite concerned they’ll find themselves without electricity,” said Crouzillac.
Sales of camping lanterns priced between 29 and 90 euros and camping stoves ranging from 25 to 200 euros have increased 10-fold this month, he said.
“I took stock of our mountain camping supplies and found we needed a lamp in case there’s a glitch,” said a man who identified himself as Philippe, but preferred not to provide his surname. REUTERS