Network cuts this winter: what are the risks for emergency numbers?


An unprecedented winter. Faced with possible tensions on the electricity network in the coming months, a plethora of measures are being implemented. Energy sobriety plan, awareness campaigns, electricity weather forecast, load shedding… Everything is thought out to avoid the worst-case scenario at all costs: widespread and uncontrolled blackouts, also known as blackouts.

As a last resort, localized power cuts, lasting a maximum of two hours, are considered at times. In its latest forecast, the French electricity transmission system operator, RTE, indicated that there was a “high” risk of tension on the network for January 2023.

“The extreme situations (which would combine all the unfavorable hazards) are not the most probable (…) The vast majority of risky situations would be in the morning between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. and in the evening between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. They would not concern not whole days or weekends,” the statement said.

Only here: who says power cut, says network cut. Questioned by the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, Director General of Orange Christel Heydemann deplored the fact that many operators are not considered priority sites in the event of tension on the electricity network.

What does that mean, exactly?

If some of the telecom sites are prioritized, this is not the case for all, informs us BFMTV. “In particular the tens of thousands of mobile sites will not be prioritized”, warns the general manager. Before adding: “It is illusory to imagine that, in the event of load shedding, we will be able to maintain a continuous service for all French people”.

Emergency numbers, unfortunately, are no exception to the rule. “Mobile services, if in a geographic area they are turned off for two hours, there will be no access to emergency number services,” says Christel Heydemann.

The government, for its part, wants to be reassuring.

The government spokesman, Olivier Véran, wants to be reassuring. “In the scenarios we are considering, and if there were problems with the electricity supply at a given time, there are what are called ‘resource antennas’, which are well distributed throughout the national territory. “, he said during a press conference after the Council of Ministers.

Indeed, it only takes one functional operator for all emergency numbers to work, even if it is not yours.