“I expect from EDF that…” The Minister of the Economy often uses the formula, and will use it again in the coming months. Bruno Le Maire will have even more freedom after June 8, when the electricity giant will be 100% back in the hands of the state shareholder.
Thus will close an eighteen-year parenthesis, opened with its IPO in 2005 and the sale of 16% of its capital to the market and to employees. An unfortunate operation for the shareholders, who lost 62.5% of their stake, and even more so for the company, which hardly benefited from this partial privatization. It must now straighten out its financial situation and regain its lost industrial excellence.
Here, then, is society freed from the pressure of the stock market. It nevertheless remains under close scrutiny from the rating agencies for its economic debt of 100 billion euros, which earned it a BBB with a stable outlook from Standard & Poor’s. The note could have been downgraded if the State had not reassured the markets by finally showing its desire to relaunch nuclear power. And, in an economy where CO2-free electricity2 will eventually replace fossil fuels, the company is called upon to play an increasing strategic role – under the watchful eye of three heavy “guardians”.
That of the state, first. France’s “electric battery” “must remain its strong arm on energy policy”, says the Minister of Ecological Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher. To renationalize is to kill two birds with one stone, according to Bruno Le Maire: “Carry out the program for six new EPR reactors in the best possible conditions”the first stage of a project that will include at least fourteen, and “set clear requirements” to the operator.
The track record of Luc Rémont, CEO for six months, is impressive. It must restore nuclear production, which has fallen to an unprecedented level; find an economic model based on a fair electricity price, at a time when the government wants it to be “as low as possible” to preserve household purchasing power and business competitiveness; and mastering an investment plan unequaled since 1946, since it is necessary to bring together the upgrading of the power stations in service, the construction of new reactors and the ramp-up of renewable energies.
An energy market with disastrous effects
A second “supervision” weighs on EDF: the Nuclear Safety Authority, which has constantly asserted its independence. It is she who will give the green light (or not) to the extension of the life of the 56 reactors beyond fifty years, even sixty years.
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