On 6 October 2022, the French government presented a so-called energy sobriety plan elaborated with all professional organizations, aiming to reduce the country's overall energy consumption by 10% within the next two years and by 40% by 2050 in order to achieve carbon neutrality.
In a context marked by the acceleration of climate change and an increasing number of international conflicts, the Government has affirmed that the energy transition must be a priority.
This plan is intended for companies and contains 15 actions to be implemented. However, these measures are not mandatory, and companies can voluntarily commit to executing one or more of them.
The scope of the measures is rather extensive and includes the following items:
- First, companies are encouraged to designate one energy ambassador per establishment in order to adapt the organisation of work.
With regards to the workplace, the plan provides for strict instructions on the temperature of professional premises and buildings: the maximum recommended temperature in offices is 19°C during the day, 16°C at night and 8°C if the building is closed for more than 3 days. However, these recommendations must not cause the companies to lose sight of their obligation to protect their employees’ health and safety, particularly regarding the temperature of the work premises.
In addition, the plan recommends switching off the buildings’ interior lighting when unoccupied.
- Second, the plan calls for the implementation of low-energy, technical solutions (replacement of materials and equipment, low-energy lighting), and to increasingly raise employees’ awareness of "eco-actions" to apply.
In the event of electrical voltage on the grid, companies are called upon to set up an adapted organisation of remote work with the staff representatives.
The measure aims to achieve the "closure of the buildings concerned in the event of important voltage on the electricity network, in order to maximise the energy savings associated with the activity in the buildings".
Some companies have already started to implement a home office policy encouraging employees to work remotely on Fridays or to reduce their workweek to 4 or 4.5 days, in order to cut their electricity expenses.
- Third, companies are encouraged to promote sustainable mobility and to educate and train their employees in eco-actions.
An important focus is placed on the use of IT tools by employees. The plan recalls that the use of a computer represents "21% of the company’s electricity consumption” and that “75% of a computer’s consumption occurs during periods of inactivity".
In this context, each company could define a "digital sobriety transformation plan" including measures to limit data storage by implementing best practices in document and e-mail management; switching off unused network equipment; encouraging employees to reduce screen brightness or switch off their workstations when they are away, etc.
This plan is part of the French energy strategy, announced by the President last February, which is based on four pillars:
- fostering energy sobriety, i.e. consuming less energy;
- promoting energy efficiency, i.e. consuming differently;
- accelerating the development of renewable energies;
- reviving the French nuclear industry.
Climate change and sustainability are major issues which both employers and employees must contribute to solve: they have a major role to play in this regard. In addition, with energy costs rising sharply (some companies have faced increases of 150% in their electricity bills), finding better ways for energy use becomes key to maintaining operating costs and competitiveness.