Électricité: des entreprises désemparées face à des prix toujours plus hauts

Électricité: des entreprises désemparées face à des prix toujours plus hauts


Electricity prices have risen steadily, reaching record highs, particularly in France (AFP/DENIS CHARLET)

The bills are multiplied by two, even by six: some companies are concerned that electricity prices for this winter soar to unprecedented levels for a number of reasons, including the problems of the French nuclear park.

Electricity prices have continued to rise, reaching all-time highs, especially in France, where they have almost doubled in just a few weeks. Electricity for delivery next year was trading on futures markets at more than 550 euros per megawatt hour, up from less than 100 euros a year ago.

If people are protected by the “energy shield” put in place by the government, professionals are increasingly concerned.

Thus, the National Federation of Wood (FNB) wrote in July to Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne to alert her to a “dramatic” situation.

“Speculation in the electricity sector is growing to the point that business continuity for our companies is no longer guaranteed for this winter and beyond,” he said.

“Since this letter, the situation has deteriorated a lot because prices are only going up,” worries Nicolas Douzain-Didier, general delegate of the federation. “We are in a dead end with no solution.”

– Generator –

A spiral well known to Yannick Chopin, whose Mayenne-based pallet manufacturing company ran into the crisis in the energy markets.

Evolution of the price of electricity for installment purchases in 2023 in France (AFP/)

Evolution of the price of electricity for installment purchases in 2023 in France (AFP/)

“All the small SMEs buy day by day, we don’t have a very long-term projection and we don’t have a purchasing manager,” emphasizes the head of Pallets 53.

His company, which has a turnover of 3 million euros, usually spends 90,000 euros a year on electricity. But with the crisis, the bill could have risen according to his estimate to around 600,000 euros. “It was completely incoherent,” he remembers.

An outbreak that led the businessman to a radical decision: rent a generator for three months at the beginning of the year.

the cooling towers of the Chinon nuclear power plant, in central France, on July 8, 2020 (AFP/GUILLAUME SOUVANT)

the cooling towers of the Chinon nuclear power plant, in central France, on July 8, 2020 (AFP/GUILLAUME SOUVANT)

The time to sign a fixed electricity supply contract for the next three years, at a price that is sure to double (200,000 euros per year) but that still allows you to pass on the increase in costs to your customers.

A reflection that not all professionals have had, who usually have contracts at variable prices, which continue to rise.

The FNB gives the example of a sawmill whose electricity cost will multiply almost sixfold between 2021 and 2023.

– regulated rate –

This trend in the markets can be explained by many factors: it is driven in particular by high gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Wholesale electricity prices follow, in effect, the evolution of gas prices due to the current design of the market, based on the “marginal price” rule: it is the cost of the last plant (generally gas) called to satisfy the demand that constitutes the price for all.

An electrical pole at the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, June 21, 2021 in Haut-Rhin (AFP/SEBASTIEN BOZON)

An electrical pole at the Fessenheim nuclear power plant, June 21, 2021 in Haut-Rhin (AFP/SEBASTIEN BOZON)

An “absurd” lineup denounced French President Emmanuel Macron. The European Commission is also working on market reform, but this will take time.

Other factors are contributing to the increase, starting with France with the many nuclear power plants undergoing maintenance, with corrosion problems that have caused the closure of 12 of the 56 reactors, raising fears for supply this winter.

Finally, the heat and the drought did not help at all. The reservoirs of the dams operated by EDF reached last Thursday “a filling rate in volume of 65%, or 15 points below the historical average”, indicates one in the electrician.

Before fundamental reforms that will take time, some companies ask for an emergency regulated tariff, such as the TaRTAM (Transitional Regulated Market Adjustment Tariff) established during the previous market boom in 2007.

On the side of the Union of Energy Consuming Industries (Uniden), which groups together very consuming companies (refining, chemical, steel, pharmaceutical, etc.), it is feared that regulated prices are too high.

“We are advocating for long-term contracts, let’s say 15 years, that give visibility,” advances its president Nicolás de Warren.

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