What Macron takeover means for Britain and France’s ‘nuclear renaissance’

Others are less certain about the impact nationalization will have.

“Will it help EDF’s financial standing? Not automatically,” says Denis Florin, partner at the energy consultancy Lavoisier Conseil.

“The state may have more control without minority shareholders, but it puts the company in a more difficult position when it comes to Brussels, as they cannot claim it is a standard company.”

One reading of the move is political, Florin believes. “It will appeal to the left and right. Socialists partly support nuclear energy, and Marine Le Pen has said she would build not five or six but 12 EPRs.”

Skeptics of nuclear power argue EDF has a more fundamental problem than state ownership can fix: the expense and long build times of nuclear power, compared to other technologies.

“[Nationalisation] may change the capacity of the state to directly back the plans, but it doesn’t change the fact that it won’t be profitable,” argues Yves Marignac, at the négaWatt Association think-tank.

“Nuclear is profoundly uneconomic. The market has said no,” adds Dr Paul Dorfman, associate fellow at the University of Sussex.

Pablo Sanchez, from the European Public Service Union, notes success will depend on what measures result for households. Otherwise, “for the French consumer who’s about to get cut off, because they’re using too much energy, it won’t mean anything,” he says.

Full nationalization looms over EDF at a delicate time for its work in the UK. The company is closing in on a funding deal with the UK Government for its Sizewell C project in Suffolk.

The GMB union warns of the risk of delays amid “likely government paralysis [in Westminster] due to a lame duck prime minister”. Andy Prendergast, national secretary, said he was seeking meetings with the Government to try and speed up the progress.

He added while there is “always a danger” that France’s needs could be put ahead of the UK’s, the GMB supports the effective nationalization of EDF.

France’s move comes as German energy giant Uniper is seeking a bailout from its own government to weather the energy crisis, while Whitehall has effectively temporarily nationalized Bulb Energy after it collapsed due to high gas prices. The GMB believes the UK should go further, as France’s move reignites calls for nationalization of the UK’s energy sector, once backed by former Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn.

“The energy sector is of vital importance to the country. We’ve long believed it should be returned to public ownership to ensure both energy security and that it is run in the national interest – not the shareholder interests,” Prendergast said.

As energy and political crises unfold in the coming months, France’s move may turn out to be the first of many.


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