French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on Wednesday that Europe’s energy crisis was “comparable” to the oil shock of 1973, and warranted exceptional mitigation measures.
“Every country in Europe is now facing an energy crisis which is the most serious in decades,” Le Maire said during a telephone press briefing, adding: “The response and the responsibility of the government is to to act, to decide and to use all the levers at its disposal to cushion this shock, because otherwise the social consequences for French consumers and the economic consequences for companies would be considerable.
The statement was followed by an impassioned defense by the finance ministry of the government’s decision this month to force EDF to sell more nuclear power to competing electricity providers at a low fixed price.
EDF workers went on strike in protest on Wednesday, calling it an “unacceptable weakening of EDF” in an open letter to Le Maire.
EDF CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy said last week that the decision was a “real shock” and would erase 8 billion euros from the already indebted company’s 2022 profits.
A finance ministry official said the country’s Energy Regulatory Commission would ensure that EDF’s competitors passed on lower prices to consumers rather than pocketing the profits; that happened in the past.
They added that the measure had been authorized by the European Commission.