Economy

Energy, how to help companies cope



For several weeks now, professional organizations have been alerting the public authorities. If nothing is done, thousands of companies could reduce their production next year or close down because they cannot pay their gas or electricity bills.

“What is happening is terrible, with prices that are sometimes multiplied by ten or fifteen, says François Asselin, President of the Confederation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (CPME). At these levels, no one can last long. » According to him, a third of companies must renew their energy contract by January 1.

contractual commitments

The message has been heard, and the government is sounding the mobilization for ” protect “ companies from these increases, according to the Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire. He received in Bercy, Wednesday, October 5, the energy suppliers to ask them to guarantee “reasonable prices” and make commitments to good business practices. A charter has been signed to this effect.

The government will also put in place a public guarantee on the bank guarantees requested by suppliers. Clearly, the State will bear part of the risk of business failure. “This is an important measure, because suppliers preferred not to make an offer rather than take a risk of non-payment”, considers Jean-Sébastien Degouve, the president of the broker Opéra Énergie.

For its part, the Energy Regulation Commission (CRE) will publish a weekly “reference price” electricity, for different consumption profiles. A kind of compass, which should help companies in the negotiation of their contracts, argues Emmanuelle Wargon, president of the CRE.

Capturing producers’ rent

The government has also pledged to financially support companies in difficulty, but without going into detail for the moment. It should have a new manna of 5 to 7 billion euros for this, after the agreement reached between the Member States in Brussels on September 30.

Electricity prices will be capped at €180/MWh. If they are above, the difference, henceforth called “inframarginal rent”, will be directly pocketed by the State, rather than by the producers, and will be used to compensate for the tariff increase supported by the companies. “It is more effective than the taxes proposed by some”, says Bruno Le Maire, alluding to the debate on “superprofits” which agitates the left.

Simplification of aid

But for now, companies are very circumspect about the aid they can benefit from. A counter listing the requests has already been set up, with 3 billion euros in funding, without much effect, due to the complexity of the system. At the beginning of September, only €500,000 had been disbursed.

“To find out if you are entitled to it, you have to have recourse to a chartered accountant and be almostin bankruptcy, emphasizes Frank Roubanovitch, president of Cleee, an association bringing together major energy consumers. The government has promised to simplify procedures.

“This does not solve the issue of soaring energy prices. The only solution is to create a tariff shield for companiesjudges the boss of the CPME. But the government does not have the means. »

New European talks

For companies, hopes now turn to Prague, where an informal summit of heads of state and government will be held on Friday 7 October. The Twenty-Seven should in particular call on the European Commission to put on the table proposals concerning the capping of the price of gas.

The European executive knows that he is expected at the turn. Last week, after having received a letter co-signed by 15 Member States, calling for a gas price cap on the wholesale market, the Commission circulated a document highlighting above all the disadvantages of such a solution.

Disagreements between the 27

But the tone changes. Before the European Parliament on Wednesday 5 October, the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said she was ready to ” examine “ the question. “There is no consensus yet”, judge Éric Maurice, head of the Brussels office of the Robert-Schuman Foundation.

The advice provided for in Prague will serve in particular to ” to take the temperature “, concedes a European source. The Commission will then be able, depending on the content of the discussions, to put a formal proposal on the table, which could be discussed at the European Council on 20 and 21 October in Brussels.

At the Élysée, it is estimated that the talks in Prague will serve to “refine positions”, but that “if something should succeed, it will rather be by the end of October”. For businesses, the countdown has begun.

——

The German plan makes waves

The German government’s 200 billion euro plan for businesses and households risks ” weaken “ certain European countries, noted the Elysée, Wednesday, October 5. “It is legitimate and normal for Member States to seek solutions to support households and businesses in the face of inflation and soaring energy prices. We do it ourselves.” conceded the French presidency before an informal European summit on Friday October 7 in Prague. “The subject possibly is on the massive nature of this aid which can weaken economies which have a weaker budgetary space than ours”, pointed out an adviser to the Head of State, calling for better coordination of national plans.



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