EdF in antitrust spotlight

12 March 2009

Electricité de France (EdF) premises in Paris were raided yesterday as part of an antitrust investigation, the European Commission has announced.


"The commission has reason to believe that EdF may have violated EC Treaty antitrust rules that prohibit the abuse of a dominant market position," said a statement which described the swoop as "a preliminary step in investigations." The EC comment included the statement: "Suspected illegal conduct may include actions to raise prices on the French wholesale electricity market."


EdF confirmed to World Nuclear News that investigations are taking place and the company is cooperating fully.


The state-controlled company generates and supplies most of the electricity used in France, while also controlling the transmission grid operator RTE. The primary sources for EdF's electricity is a fleet of 58 nuclear reactors, while other sources include hydro and gas.


EC officials were accompanied by the French competition authority for the "unnanounced inspection," which follows the conclusions of an inquiry into the success of the European open market for electricity. The probe was launched in June 2005 and ran until January 2007 when its final report "made uncomfortable reading for many energy companies," according to competition commissioner Nellie Kroes.


"Consumers and businesses are losing out," said an EC release in 2007, "because of inefficient and expensive gas and electricity markets." It noted that "particular problems include high levels of market concentration, vertical integration of supply, generation and infrastructure leading to a lack of equal access to, and investment in, infrastructure; and, possible collusion between incumbent operators to share markets."


A "true internal energy market" is a main goal of European energy policy, as is a minimum of 10% interconnection between national grids and further separation of power generation and transmission.