France willing to agree date for domestic power market deregulation

19 November 2002 – The French government has indicated a willingness to set a date for the deregulation of electricity supplies to domestic consumers for the first time. Industry minister Nicole Fontaine said that 2007-2009 looked reasonable but imposed conditions.

Speaking ahead of a meeting of EU energy ministers on 25 November , Fontaine told reporters, “France is fully willing to accept the setting of a date, on two conditions.” The minister wanted EU partners to accept in return that the impact of deregulation in supplies to industrial energy users in coming years be reviewed beforehand to measure the impact on prices and market access.

Paris has resisted pressure from EU partners to agree full electricity market deregulation in the past, wary of a potential backlash trade unions and voters from ending the monopoly of state-owned energy utility Electricité de France.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, has so far pressed for 2005 to be set as the deadline for total opening up of the market, backed by several other EU countries. Fontaine said that France would be worse off if EU partners agreed on full-scale deregulation by outvoting it at the talks among EU energy ministers on November 25.

“If France were to end up in a minority…things would be a lot more difficult to explain to companies, employees and public opinion,” she said.

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