The unions demand a “balance sheet” of the European electricity market in the light of the debates on the future of EDF

The unions demand a “balance sheet” of the European electricity market in the light of the debates on the future of EDF

A priori, the French energy unions are not opposed to the State’s plan to hold 100% of the capital of EDF. On the other hand, they ask that this reform be accompanied by a reflection on the reform of the European electricity market.

“Why nationalize EDF if it does not change the problems? » asks Alexandre Grillat, National Secretary for Public Affairs of the CFE-CGC Énergies executives’ union, contacted by EURACTIV.

« Bruno The Mayor [ministre de l’Économie] makes fun of saying that the State will always be at EDF’s side. However, the State has failed for 20 years by imposing everything and its opposite on the company” he asserts.

With his counterpart Fabrice Coudour, Federal Secretary of the National Federation of Mines and Energy (FNME) of the CGT, also contacted by EURACTIV, both are asking in the first place that this state project restore the financial capacities of the flagship of French energy.

Reform of ARENH

To restore the company’s capacities, trade unionists are calling for the end of the regulated access to historical nuclear energy system (ARENH) which obliges EDF to sell its electricity at a fixed price (€42/MWh) before buying it back on the market at a high price.

The representative of the CGT, Mr. Coudour, goes even further, proposing a return to the “regulated sales tariff” of energy which would only reflect the costs of production and investment, currently around 60 to 70 € per megawatt hour. (MWh).

This difference with the price of ARENH could be financed in part by a reduction in value added tax (VAT) from 20% to 5.5%, thus proposes Mr. Coudour.

Without dismantling EDF

The two trade unionists also remain opposed to the dismantling of the company as planned by the Hercule project currently suspended, but which the government could bring out of the boxes in the coming months.

“It must be understood that the choice not to change the character of a public limited company (SA) of EDF completely gives the hand to a single State shareholder to break up the company in the short term. And this, without parliamentary debate.says Mr. Coudour.

For this reason, the CGT wants EDF to become a public industrial and commercial establishment (EPIC).

“We are proposing a ‘new nationalisation’, but for all the electricity and gas sectors by setting up an EPIC which brings together all the companies in the energy sector”explains the representative of the CGT.

According to him, maintaining a single EDF would also create the necessary conditions to repay the group’s debt and take advantage of the appetite of the financial markets for renewable energies.

For Mr. Grillat of the CFE-CGC, “Hercules and his logic are contrary to the general interest”. In contrast, ” there is alternative”, For example an IPO of the subsidiary EDF Renouvelables and thus facilitate His development “.

His union will not oppose this “shareholder flexibility”, if, however, EDF remains the majority shareholder of its subsidiary.

In addition, the CFE-CGC has not “no religion on the EPIC or SA form”, as long as this enables new financial capacities and the nuclear program announced by the President of the Republic to be launched.

Reform of the European electricity market

However, according to the two trade unionists, none of these measures would hold water if the European Union did not return to a key point: its electricity market.

The price of electricity on the European market is currently defined by the “marginal” cost of the last most expensive MWh produced. Or, because of the crisis, the price of one MWh of gas.

A situation ” absurd” according to the admission of the Minister of Economy and Finance Bruno Le Maire who has been calling for many months, with Spain, for “structural solutions” to reform the electricity market and separate it from the gas market.

For the representative of the CGT, the subject is closed: “the first thing that creates the problem is the energy market, which forces you to think in the short term and which causes bills to explode”.

“The urgency is to have the courage to say that we must derogate from the electricity market, as Spain has done, in a completely legal way”, he advances.

For his part, Mr Grillat nevertheless thinks that a derogation of this type could not exist without a structural reform of the European system, insofar as France is in a central position, between the Iberian peninsula and the rest of Europe.

“We simply want the European Union to make an honest assessment of the opening of the electricity market system, its flaws, and therefore possible reforms, or even its negation”Insofar as “energy is a common good”he admits.

[Édité par Frédéric Simon]

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