Behind the scenes of the battle between EDF and the State over nuclear electricity prices

BIG STORY – The agreement on the regulation of electricity prices reached on November 14 concludes months of negotiations which pitted EDF CEO Luc Rémont, the government, and the heavyweights of the French economy.

The fall soap opera ended last Tuesday. At the end of a final working meeting in Bercy, ministers Bruno Le Maire (Economy and Finance), Agnès Pannier-Runacher (Energy Transition), Roland Lescure (Industry), and EDF CEO Luc Rémont announced an agreement on the future regulation of nuclear electricity prices In France. Finally. Bruno Le Maire has done the math: for this file alone, he has had sixteen meetings with Luc Rémont in barely a year, half of which in the last two months. “You said it, Minister, it was sometimes difficult”Luc Rémont slipped on Tuesday, “not because our objectives were different, but because we had to reinvent the system”.

Difficult, it was to the point that since the start of the school year, Paris has been buzzing with a rumor, that of the possibility of Luc Rémont’s resignation, less than a year after his arrival end of November 2022. Realize it! No boss has slammed the door of a public company since François Henrot, who gave up France Telecom, eight days after being appointed CEO. The state was no longer sure what it expected of him. It was in 1995. Luc Rémont’s predecessor, Jean-Bernard Lévy, probably thought about it, starting at the beginning of 2022, when the decision to make EDF bear part of the tariff shield increased the group’s losses. If the country had not been in the presidential election campaign, perhaps it would have taken the plunge…

Today, his interlocutors in the State ure him: they have never heard Luc Rémont explicitly threaten to throw in the towel. But many believed he was capable of it. The man doesn’t get angry much, but he is whole. He showed that he knew how to establish balance of power and maintain pressure: had he not imposed on the executive and obtained from Emmanuel Macron in September 2022, to be appointed CEO and not just general director, in contradiction with the new doctrine of state governance? The boss of EDF, a reserve soldier, readily says he is on a mission; we imagine him refusing the one he considers impossible. Has he considered it in recent weeks? “He had his moments of hope…and his moments of despair”, describes a relative. Before his career in the private sector, in banking and at Schneider Electric, Luc Rémont worked in Bercy, with Francis Mer, Nicolas Sarkozy and Thierry Breton. “He is from the generation that picked up the pieces of the bankruptcy of Crédit Lyonnais and the rout of France Telecom”testifies one of those who know him well, “he doesn’t want to be the one to bury a second time Marcel Boiteux (reference figure of EDF which he managed during the 1970s and 1980s, died last summer, Editor’s note)”.

“You are Stockholmized!”

Behind the reform of the regulation of electricity prices there was a clash of cultures, an almost philosophical confrontation of which France has the secret, even in economic matters. First hypothesis: EDF is only an outgrowth of the State, and its electricity is intended to be “a product administered in a post-1945 manner”, as the…

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