Energy crisis: “avenues” to support energy-intensive industries

Faced with soaring gas and electricity prices, the objective is also to try to stabilize electricity prices in the longer term.

The government spoke on Tuesday of several “avenues” to support industries that consume a lot of energy in the face of soaring gas and electricity prices, and to try to stabilize electricity prices in the longer term.

The representatives of the energy-intensive industries were received by the Minister of Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, and Minister of Industry, Agnès Pannier-Runacher. They left the meeting satisfied with the announcement of a working group intended to stabilize electricity prices. “But for the short term, the account is not there, it will be necessary to push other measures”, summarized to AFP Nicolas de Warren, president of the Union of the industries using energy (Uniden), noting in a few months the cost of electricity had tripled and that of gas more than quintupled.

For the government, companies will already benefit at the beginning of 2022 from the tax reduction (TICFE) announced for all by Jean Castex, for an amount of 200 million euros, it is pointed out at the Ministry of Ecological Transition. A robust path will also be dug, via the indirect carbon cost compensation mechanism, so that this aid usually paid in year n+1 to the most affected industries is partially paid from 2022, and not 2023.

A working group will be launched

Beyond that, a working group will be launched to regulate the French electricity market for industries. “The decarbonization of our economy will go in part through the electrification of uses; and to invest, you need visibility, but current prices and volatility are a brake,” the ministry said. Several options will be studied, in particular long-term contracts between suppliers (EDF, etc.) and manufacturers. Bpifrance and the Caisse des Dépôts will be mandated to work in particular on guarantees facilitating the conclusion of such contracts.

The manufacturers would have liked an increase in the ceiling of the Arenh, a mechanism allowing access to electricity at the cost price of the historic nuclear fleet, but the government is not considering it in the short term. Uniden warns against closing certain production units in the face of this unprecedented price crisis. “Many are stalling their production rhythm from day to day, prolonging maintenances”, according to the ministry. “But we do not yet see a situation where we are told of closures. Of course, we are following very closely.” Among the energy intensive sectors are aluminum production, electro-metallurgy, which consume a lot of electricity, materials and glass, which require high temperatures and therefore gas, or even heavy chemicals.