Last Wednesday, strike at EDF, I took the candles out of the closet.
In the end, they weren’t used but I keep them handy: it seems that the electricity supply is very tight these days… and also in the future. I checked on the box, there is no expiry date, and neither for the matches…
Why worry about EDF here? Of course, because it is our future supplier of fuel… uh energy for our cars.
However, EDF is in bad shape. Forty billion euros in debt, fifty billion to be disbursed in the decade for the major refit which will extend the life of around thirty old nuclear reactors and almost as much to be extended for the six new EPRs scheduled, which, it is hoped, will will absorb the pharaonic cost of that of Flamanville and will make people forget the delays in its commissioning.
Colossal challenge to take up with, in addition to bloodless finances, depopulated engineering and research anesthetized by ten years of electoral promises to phase out nuclear power.
Even if, with the return to grace of the atom, these promises only bind those who believed in them, they will still have resulted in the closure of Fessenheim – and therefore the extension of two coal-fired power stations promised to scrapping – as well as the abandonment of the promising Astrid fast neutron reactor project, the famous 4th generation which was to make it possible to recycle part of the waste instead of burying it.
Another result of these ten years of disinvestment, this winter, five of the largest reactors are shut down for repairs, depriving the electrician of 10% of its production capacity.
It is in this particularly pleasant context that the government is asking EDF to cushion the rise in electricity prices by buying back from its competitors at the delirious market price electricity that it has essentially produced to resell it to (big) loss to its customers. Cost for the State, eight billion and as much for the electrician. Ubuesque but explainable.
Essentially bogus competition
It all started in 2007 when, under pressure from Brussels, EDF lost its monopoly as an electricity supplier in France. For the European Commission, monopoly is evil, it is anti-competitive, a mortal sin. EDF is therefore forced to deliver part of its production at a regulated price to private companies, most of which are pure commercial pharmacies whose activity consists only of canvassing customers and invoicing them for what it has purchased at EDF. It’s a bit like a guy buying up the Simca brand and, rather than worrying about building a factory, getting the state, in the name of free competition, to have Stellantis and Renault-Nissan supply it with cars at outlet prices. factory that he would rebadge with his brand to resell them for three times more. Am I exaggerating? Barely.
I’ll spare you the 100 or 120 billion euros spent by the State and EDF to buy electricity at a subsidized rate from wind or solar farms which today produce just 10% of our electricity. A production allowing these private companies to sell us so-called 100% organic kilowatts…
In short, essentially phony competition but which made it possible to contain the amount of the bills until the recent explosion in gas prices.
This is where the infernal machine got carried away to the point that we should be billed for our kW, yet 80% of nuclear or hydraulic origin at the insane rate of the gas plant.
The thing slipped out of their hands
Don’t ask me why or how, I don’t understand anything anymore. Even those who engineered the subtle mechanism of the European electricity market with its ARENH tariffs and other subtle complications admit that the thing slipped out of their hands.
We can, however, see things more simply. Since energy is the primary element of our economies, not to say the blood of our society, it is reasonable to think that it should not be subject to the same market laws as the kilo of chickpeas or the stick of lipstick. Or to its most basic law, which is that you can only sell what you own or produce.
I am not asking for the return of monopoly; that Total Energies or Engie sells us electricity from their gas-fired power stations or their wind farms doesn’t bother me. But that we force EDF, the company that generations of French people have built with their bills and their taxes, to provide them with dirt cheap so that they can enrich their shareholders seems unfair to me.
And if it is confirmed that the future is nuclear, we should all demand that the maintenance of our power stations.
If this has to go through a renationalisation of EDF, why not, because our security is at stake.
There will not be an election every year…
But back to our electric cars. There is no danger yet and I want to believe in the promises of smart charging with cars that will supply the network with their batteries during peak consumption to avoid starting thermal power stations.
But up to how many millions of cars will it work? There will indeed be a time when the balance between charging and discharging will become negative and when the fleet of electric vehicles will contribute to the increase in overall consumption. Converted to electricity, half of the current fleet would consume, at constant mileage, 70,000 MW, or almost twice what the entire French wind farm produces or 16% of total electricity production. Doesn’t seem insurmountable…
But our cars are not the only ones to contribute to the increase in needs.
First, there is housing with the “great replacement” of oil and gas boilers with heat pumps which will increasingly rely on electricity to heat our homes.
Then the industry whose relocation all the presidential candidates promise us. A lathe, a press or a robot consumes more current than a vacuum cleaner…
In this context, it is difficult to see how to do without new nuclear power plants because the resistible rise in power of solar, wind and other renewable energies will not be enough to ensure the voltage.
To finance all this, we will not escape a substantial increase in electricity prices. There will not be an election every year to encourage the government to compress the price of the kilowatt and the 8 billion that EDF has just been swiped from the fund will have to return there.
Conclusion, electric driving will soon no longer be “free or almost free” as a colleague wrote recently. If we could, ten years ago, count on 1.50 € per 100 km with a Zoé, it is now more like 2 or 2.50 €/100 and soon rather 4, 5 or 6 € to finance nuclear projects and renewable energies, then replace the shortfall in taxes on petroleum fuels.
If tomorrow I have to buy an electric car, I will not only look at its autonomy, but also its consumption…