Infotech EDF: a strike to defend “a public energy service”

EDF: a strike to defend “a public energy service”

It was the government’s decision to involve EDF – a company in which the State holds 84% ​​of the shares – to limit the rise in the price of electricity that set the powder on fire. In order to contain the French bill, the company is called upon to resell more electricity at low prices to its competitors who, in ten years, have never invested in acquiring the means of production. “A real shock” for the CEO of EDF, and a decision “scandalous” for the four main unions in the energy sector (FO, CCFE-CGC, CFDT and FNME-CGT) who called for a strike by company employees on Wednesday 26 January.

“L’Obs” deciphers the mechanisms that led to this conflict.

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  • At the origins, the controversial ARENH system

The ARENH, for “regulated access to historical nuclear electricity”, is a system set up following the vote of the law relating to the new organization of the electricity market, known as the “Nome law”. Since 2011, it has provided that, in the name of a “fair” competition policy in France and in Europe, all alternative suppliers to EDF can obtain electricity from the French company.

EDF is required to resell at cost price a quarter of its electricity to its competitors until 2025, the time that the latter, who have no means of production, can acquire it and become autonomous. A more than juicy deal for these operators, who buy 42 euros per megawatt hour (Mwh) to resell it to their customers at the market price, which flirts with 300 €/Mwh. All this without having to invest a penny in EDF’s infrastructure – and its nuclear fleet of eighteen power plants, five of which are currently shut down due to corrosion problems.

EDF under high pressure

Another data to take into account: the mechanisms that link the price of gas to the price of electricity on the European market. “This price is indexed to the price of the last means of production offered for sale on the network”, explains Fabrice Coudour, employee at EDF and responsible for the claims made by the CGT. Thus, if the last kilowatt-hour produced in Europe is produced using fossil fuels – the most expensive –, the kilowatt-hours produced from other energies will be sold at the same price. Including nuclear and hydraulic, the majority in France and producing for much lower prices.

  • A precarious balance

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The recent surge in the price of gas has dynamited the fragile balance of this system. To curb the rise in the price of electricity, which is indexed to it, the French government has decided to increase the volume of energy sold by EDF, by raising the annual ceiling of ARENH from 100 to 120 terawatt hours (TWh) . Even though the company has no additional inventory: “Electricity cannot be storedrecalls Fabrice Coudour, and it is sold months in advance to our customers. »

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To be able to sell more electricity to its competitors, as required by the government, the company is therefore obliged to buy back electricity… at the market price.

EDF will have to pay up to €300/Mwh in order to be able to resell an additional 20 TWh for the modest sum of €46/MWh. A decision which will cause the loss of 7.7 to 8.4 billion euros, estimated the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, on the gross operating surplus of the company.

  • “A scandalous decision”

EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy said he welcomed the government’s choice as “a real shock”. On the union side, we denounce “a scandalous decision”.

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A “tariff shield” put in place to fight against the rise in gas and electricity prices

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The inter-union therefore launched a call for a strike by EDF employees on Wednesday January 26 to denounce the measure, deemed to be electioneering, but also to challenge the application of market logic to a sector as sensitive as energy. “In the name of energy sovereignty, it is necessary to get out of this market logic and stop acting as if electricity and gas were goods like any other”claims Fabrice Coudour.

At the same time, employees will demand an increase in their wages and new hires, to counter the wage shortage that the company is facing: “We were told that there was no money for salaries and hiring, and there, we should lose 8 billion without saying anything”argues the trade unionist, who calls for a “quality and less expensive public energy service for citizens”.

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