Electricity: why the call for alternative suppliers to join EDF risks aggravating the crisis

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For several days, anyone who has tried to sign an energy supply contract has been met with an unusual message. From the giants to the smallest in the sector, from low cost a premiumthe slogan is the same: Subscription to an electricity-only offer is temporarily unavailable “, Eni objects after a few clicks on his site; ” Your request cannot be completed “, we can read about that from Vattenfall. The same story at Ovo Energy or Alpiq: “ Our energy offers are no longer available ” Where ” Subscription is temporarily unavailable “, respectively show the two companies.

But there is no general computer bug on the horizon. As energy prices reach levels never seen before in the markets, most suppliers are facing a situation untenable “, they argue. And it is not for less, each megawatt hour (MWh) that they would buy today for this winter would cost them to pay more than 1,500 euros, compared to less than 50 euros in “normal” times. Unable to welcome new customers at acceptable prices, many choose to close the door on them.

Alternatives say they can no longer be covered

Worse still, some of EDF’s so-called “alternatives” competitors even openly encourage current customers to terminate their contract to avoid a blowout on their bill. In recent days, Iberdrola and Mint Energie have especially encouraged them to resort to the regulated sales rate (TRV, the EDF offer supervised by the State that can only be marketed by the public energy company), to avoid a vertiginous rise in fees monthly. ” By switching to EDF, you could save €218 a year “, we can read in an email sent on August 23 by Mint Energie to one of its clients.

“It has become extremely difficult for us to cover ourselves, so it is not in the interest of consumers to make them suffer unreasonable increases,” the general director of Iberdrola France, Reginald Thiebaut, explains to La Tribune.

Others assume to suddenly review their price list at the beginning of the school year: at the beginning of August, Ohm Energie customers discovered by email a substantial modification of their contract, hitherto indexed to the TRV, with an increase ” 50 to 60% direct debits from September 1, according to the company. For clients, the observed increase is more than 100%, monthly payments more than doubling since the beginning of the school year. Results : ” some of the customers decide to leave confirms François Joubert, CEO of Ohm Energie. Same refrain on GreenYellow: on Thursday, the subsidiary of the Casino group announced a 70% increase in its prices (so far also indexed to the regulated selling price) from October.

From Iberdrola to Mint Energie, passing through Ohm or GreenYellow, the reason they give is the same: ” The exceptional rise in electricity supply costs, linked to the energy crisis, no longer allows current rates to be maintained “. Given that most of these suppliers do not generate the electricity they sell and are supplied from the markets, in principle they have no choice but to absorb the price increase… and if necessary, pass it on to their customers, which EDF does not can do for your FIT offer.

The impulse of the State was to save suppliers

And yet, the multiple aids put in place by the government should allow them to maintain their offers, in order to protect customers from a possible increase in monthly fees. In effect, thanks to the State tariff shield, the invoices of the French should not reflect the volatility of the market, whatever their supplier (at least until a recovery of the aid, which has not yet taken place). A way to maintain competition with EDF despite exceptional conditions, thanks to taxpayers’ money.

In the first place, to limit the offer in the market of alternative suppliers, the executive decided at the beginning of the year to increase the volume of electricity at knockdown prices that it will sell to them in 2022 from 100 to 120 terawatt hours (TWh). of EDF were able to benefit from more electricity at less than 50 euros per MWh, supplied… by EDF itself, by virtue of its right to ARENH (regulated access to electricity nuclear history). To offset the advantage that the status of leading electricity producer confers on EDF for its nuclear fleet, the incumbent supplier must sell a quarter of its production since 2012, that is, about 100 terawatt hours (TWh). This year, therefore, EDF has had no choice but to deliver a large part of its precious electrons at a rate set by law, which has risen since March 11 to 46.20 euros per MWh (compared to the previous 42 euros).

It is not all. A few months ago, the State directly distributed economic compensation to suppliers so that they could face the crisis. ” They advanced us the equivalent of the money deficit that the offer in the markets could cause. This bridges the gap between what the rates should have been and what the rates actually were for consumers. “, he explains to The galery Vincent Maillard, co-founder of Plüm Energie.

Vicious circle for EDF

But these measures now appear to be doubly ineffective. On the one hand, it is clear that the devices, if they cost the French several billion euros, were not enough to really relieve the vast majority of energy supply companies. “ With such prices, the delta is so strong that, in any case, we will not be more competitive compared to the TRV limited by the tariff shield. “, explains Iberdrola’s general manager for France.

On the other hand, the measure of increasing the ceiling of ARENH, which supposedly would help the competition to stay afloat, has seriously affected the accounts of EDF, which must finally ensure the supply of the many customers pushed to abandon the alternatives. In fact, at the beginning of the year, the public energy company had to repurchase the additional 20 TWh from ARENH that it was asking for at a very high price, which meant a deficit of almost 10,000 million euros.

But the worst is yet to come: while its production forecasts for 2022 are historically low due to a corrosion defect that affects its nuclear park, EDF will not be able to recover the ARENH that it sold at the beginning of the year. In fact, nothing today forces the alternatives that have sent their consumers to EDF (the same ones that had given them the right to ARENH’s volumes to spend the winter) to account. Losing on all counts, the incumbent supplier will have no choice but to buy, once again, the missing electrons at excessive prices in the markets, to support newcomers. ” This will inevitably lead to a big mess, which will eventually be paid for by everyone. “, regrets a person close to the file

Blockade of the tariff shield

For their part, the suppliers that have divested part of their portfolio are free to resell the electrons purchased at a relatively low price on the markets at exorbitant prices. ” If I ask my customers to leave, or encourage them to do so with a drastic increase in rates or hefty security deposits, I can offload a MWh purchased last year for €150 (I was originally supposed to supply these customers) for €800. euros or more, and thus make a colossal fortune! There is no safeguard preventing this speculation. », underlines an alternative provider who wishes to remain anonymous.

“Although some may get rich, it is inevitably EDF that will bear the costs, since it is the only provider that does not have the right to turn off the customers’ tap,” slides an expert in the sector.

The note, therefore, promises to be salty. According to the last count made in July, that is, before the regrowth observed in August, the continuous rise in prices promises to increase the cost of the tariff shield by 2022, with 16,000 million for electricity. While the government recently opened the door to a gradual end to the system, and a recovery should normally follow, the crisis that has lasted for more than a year and continues to worsen risks hurting the pockets of the French, who until now they have been relatively protected.