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France stalling over EDF wholesale tax – MPs

(Montel) The French government is stalling over plans to introduce a tax on state-owned EDF’s nuclear power sales, fearing parliament may reject it, MPs told Montel this week.

The government was mulling scrapping any reference to the tax from its draft energy sovereignty bill, which it had initially planned to table at the beginning of the month but had now postponed, said the MPs from the government’s ruling Renaissance party, confirming a report in French daily La Tribune.

“I think [economy minister] Bruno Le Maire doesn’t want to find himself out on a limb and take a beating over a law and he’s quite right,” said one MP, who wished to remain anonymous.

“We are currently considering what to include in this bill and when,” said MP Antoine Armand.

Nothing’s decided
Nothing had been decided on the “legislative approach”, another politician, Olga Givernet, told Montel.

The original draft bill carried details of the deal struck between EDF and the government in November, outlining the tax would apply to the state-run firm’s nuclear sales in staggered thresholds above EUR 78-80/MWh and then at EUR 110/MWh and above.

The government had said it wanted to implement the tax once the EUR 42/MWh Arenh rate – where a certain amount of its output is sold to rivals annually – expired in 2026, adding the aim was for EDF to sell atomic power at an average EUR 70/MWh.

The government was “reluctant” to include details of the tax in the draft because the thresholds “risked being revised upwards or downwards in the event of a parliamentary debate”, said Phuc Vinh Nguyen, a researcher at French think tank Institut Jacques Delors.

The risk was that some opposition party MPs, who could sway the parliamentary vote, might want to increase the tax thresholds to guarantee higher revenues for the firm, said energy lawyer Fabrice Cassin.

The government stalling over the issue, “in terms of visibility for market players and the way things are done [was] not good news”, said Gery Lecerf of the alternative power suppliers lobby Afieg.

The government had pledged to set the new price at least two years before the Arenh mechanism expired, he added.

Calmer debate?
Going forward, the government could either reintroduce the tax to the draft but table it after European elections in June, in the hope of a calmer debate, said energy lawyer Arnaud Gossement.

Or it could add it to a finance bill, which would allow the governement to push the tax through parliament without a vote, Cassin added.

Last month, the economy ministry removed all the energy and climate targets from the draft bill after protests over the absence of renewable goals.