EDF employees are on strike this Wednesday against the State’s request to sell more electricity at low prices to its competitors in order to contain the electricity bill of households and businesses, a decision of which they fear the consequences for the group health.
The movement, which should not cause power cuts, nevertheless led to a drop in production of 2,500 MW overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, until around 8:00 a.m., when RTE asked for the shutdown of declines, the manager of high and very high voltage lines told AFP. This is the equivalent of two large nuclear reactors.
Faced with soaring energy prices, the government has unsheathed an arsenal of measures to contain bills and honor its promise to limit the increase in regulated electricity prices to 4% in 2022, in a context sensitive to a few weeks of the presidential election.
At the energy company, the latest measure announced sparked an outcry: the government asked EDF to increase by 20% the volume of nuclear electricity sold at a reduced price to its competitors this year, to increase it from 100 at 120 terawatt hours (TWh). This will cost the group around 8 billion euros.
After this announcement, the four main unions in the energy sector called for a strike by EDF employees on Wednesday. The group is already grappling with new delays for the Flamanville EPR (Manche) and with a corrosion problem on the safety systems in several power plants.
“It’s a totally absurd decision, taken without measuring the long-term consequences. It will considerably weaken EDF,” said Eric Kozlowski, CFE-CGC union representative at the Golfech nuclear power plant, on Wednesday.
This plant, which employs some 800 people in Tarn-et-Garonne, is one of the rallying points on this day of protest.
For him, other solutions exist, such as a VAT reduced to 5.5% on the price of electricity, “but obviously, no other avenue has been studied by the government”. However, EDF needs to invest “to meet the challenges of combating global warming”.
Rallies took place during the day on Wednesday, in front of other certain nuclear power plants of the group, such as Gravelines (North), or Bugey.
About 200 people gathered between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m., in front of the entrance to this plant in Saint-Vulbas (Ain), according to the inter-union.
The government “wants EDF to supply nearly 40% of its production at cost price to its main competitors!”, Lamented Christophe Paul, secretary general of CGT Bugey, interviewed by AFP.
– “Contribute to national solidarity” –
“When EDF has experienced difficulties, the State (almost 84% shareholder of EDF, editor’s note) has always been present. And the State will always be present”, declared the boss of the LREM deputies Christophe Castaner, Wednesday on France 2.
He said he did not understand this strike, “because when you are proud to be in a public company like EDF, you also assume to contribute to national solidarity”.
Without intervention to force EDF to provide electricity at lower prices, the government says that 150 French companies that consume a lot of electricity could have closed.
Regulated prices would have jumped 45% on February 1, according to the regulator, which calculates annual increases based on market prices.
A rare fact, this government measure moved even the highest levels of business: in an internal message to EDF executives, CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy strongly criticized the government’s decision, a “real shock”, which he “fought”.
This movement at EDF is superimposed on a categorical strike by energy agents as a whole for the revaluation of salaries and pensions, at the call of the CGT, which began on Tuesday.
“For a month, there will be a whole bunch of actions. Since yesterday evening, we have disconnected all the road radars of Corsica from the EDF network so they are inoperative today”, Xavier Nesa told AFP on Wednesday. , secretary general of the CGT Energie on the island, a “little financial helping hand” to users to win the battle of public opinion.
by mer-dfa-mc / eb