The main energy companies, including EDF, TotalEnergies and Engie, had been called to a meeting in Bercy by the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire, who had accused them last week of “not playing the game” by inflating the prices offered to SME.
Today, 1.5 million very small businesses are eligible for the tariff shield, which limits the rise in energy costs, recalled Bercy, but others are offered offers at the time of their contract renewal at “outrageous prices”.
“Too many unacceptable cases have come to us”, lamented the minister at the end of this meeting, citing “invoices with exorbitant prices, contract conditions which are revised unilaterally, insufficient visibility on contracts”.
To prevent companies from finding themselves without an energy contract, the State will take on itself the “risk premium” requested from companies by suppliers to guarantee their possible default in payment. “The State will set up a public guarantee on the bank guarantees which are requested by suppliers from their customers when signing contracts”, explained Bruno Le Maire during a press briefing alongside ministers Agnès Pannier- Runacher (Energy Transition), Roland Lescure (Industry) and Olivia Grégoire (SME).
The Bercy tenant stressed that it was a “totally innovative element in energy contracts”, which should make it possible to lower prices.
– Price limits –
Invited to participate in the “solidarity” effort, suppliers must in return make efforts and observe good practices. They have committed to a charter to “make at least one commercial proposal for any addressable professional consumer who requests it”, according to this code of good conduct consulted by AFP.
In the charter, the energy suppliers notably promised to warn customers not eligible for the regulated electricity tariff “at least two months in advance” before the renewal or the end of their contract.
These commitments made by the State and by suppliers are “likely to reassure companies”, commented Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, president of the employers’ union, the Medef, who also pleads for “a European agreement to cap prices energy”, also wanted by the government.
Among the suppliers and producers summoned to Bercy were also the French Electricity Union (UFE), the National Association of Retail Energy Operators (ANODE), the Independent French Association of Electricity and Gas (AFIEG), and representatives of local distribution companies.
The Minister warned that if “abusive behavior” persisted, they would be “sanctioned”, based on investigations by the Fraud Repression and the Energy Regulatory Commission (CRE).
To help companies better decipher the offers, the CRE, the energy policeman, will also publish in the coming days on its website a “reference price” for electricity, updated each week. This information targeted at companies with less than 250 employees will be broken down according to several professional consumer profiles.
“We will not let you down,” promised the Minister of the Economy to “all companies”, who recalled the existence of an aid envelope of 3 billion euros.
To finance aid for companies and local authorities in difficulty because of soaring prices, the government is counting on the reimbursement of the “annuity” amassed by the producers of electricity of nuclear or renewable origin, which reap exceptional profits in selling their production at a price much higher than their production costs. The state wants to recover the money earned on the market by energy companies beyond the ceiling of 180 euros per MWh, validated by European energy ministers.
“We will not allow rents to be built up on delirious energy prices”, warned Mr. Le Maire.