A corona wave is breaking again in France.

The number of newly infected people is increasing rapidly.

But the virus hardly spreads fear and terror anymore.

Concerns about the electricity supply have dominated the debate much more strongly after the government and the electricity grid operator RTE announced that parts of the country would be unplugged for around two hours this winter due to extreme cold and insufficient consumption reduction.

The threat of load shedding, no matter how controlled it should be, has understandably alarmed the French.

The current situation on the electricity market has now taken the place of virus incidence and vaccination rates.

The number of Ecowatt users, an app that the network operator wants to use to announce the shutdowns three days in advance, has more than doubled in the past week.

President Emmanuel Macron warned of "fear scenarios" on Tuesday after the education minister blubbered frankly about canceled classes and a spokesman for an electricity supplier said that while facilities like hospitals are exempt from the shutdowns, homes with people on ventilators are not are dependent.

The government objects, but can't get the blackout genie back in the bottle.

Every third French heats with electricity

The concerns of citizens and companies are not out of thin air.

The power shortage is real.

The restarting of shut down nuclear power plants, which traditionally cover around 70 percent of French consumption, has repeatedly been delayed.

First the routine maintenance work, which was delayed due to the pandemic, accumulated, then the operating group Électricité de France (EdF) had to take 16 systems off the grid because of discovered or suspected corrosion damage to important pipelines.

Strikes also whirled the timetables upside down.

It is little consolation that at least the cooling problem that arose in the summer has subsided.

The government also has to put up with questions.

In August, she accepted EdF's confidence that by the turn of the year 50 of the 61.4 gigawatts of power from the nuclear power plant park would be available again.

But as early as September, the network operator's central forecast only provided for 45 gigawatts.

In November, he finally revised this to 40 gigawatts.

Around 37 gigawatts are now available again.

However, the maximum load, i.e. the expected peak demand for electricity, is already more than double due to the cold temperatures - and could reach more than 90 gigawatts in January because about one in three French people heats with electricity.

Alternatives are needed

Political pressure has not sped up repairs.

The fact that dozens of welders and installers from America had to be hired for this shows the miserable condition in which the mostly state-owned EdF group is.

Under Macron's predecessor François Hollande, who wanted to emulate the German nuclear phase-out, too little money flowed into skilled workers and the maintenance of Europe's largest nuclear power plant park.

This is now taking revenge, of all things, in a historic gas crisis.

For the time being, France will therefore remain dependent on imports, having already procured much more electricity from Germany in the course of the year than in previous years.

At the latest after the most recent signing of the Franco-German solidarity agreement, the federal government will have to take this fact into account in its energy policy course.

Every kilowatt hour helps, including from German nuclear power plants.

In Paris, on the other hand, everything must be done to quickly bring the reactors into shape after the energy policy zigzag course of the past few years.

This can succeed if, despite the full nationalization that has been heralded, engineers and business economists have the say at EdF instead of civil servants and functionaries.

At the same time, alternatives are needed.

At least in summer, the sun-drenched south of France can cover a large part of its energy requirements with solar systems, the installed capacity of which is currently far below that of Germany.

France, which is surrounded by the sea, has not exhausted its potential for wind power generation either.

If this succeeds and if the nuclear renaissance initiated by Macron bears fruit, one day it will be Germany that imports electricity from its neighbors on a large scale.