Lack of affordable electricity, manufacturers rush to diesel generators

Who doesn’t have their spare diesel? For the past few weeks, companies have been struggling to protect themselves against soaring energy costs. Some are reducing their production, others are shifting it to nights or weekends when electricity is cheaper. To save money, many also turn to generators which, in addition, allow them to protect themselves from cuts. This is the case for SMEs as well as large groups such as Michelin or the glassmaker Arc International.

With an electricity cost above €400/MWh, it is financially more advantageous to use a back-up generator to produce its current, rather than being connected to the network. On the wholesale markets, on Friday September 30, prices were €885/MWh for November and €1,320/MWh for December.

Machines arrive from abroad

“It’s the rush, to the point that there will probably not be enough machines for everyone”, estimates Thibaut George, CEO of Axciss, an industrial maintenance group, whose subsidiary, Dekran Power, rents temporary electrical installations. To meet demand, he explains that he has already urgently repatriated around fifty generators from the Middle East in order to reinstall them in Champagne and the Alps. His customers don’t want to be quoted, he says, because they’re afraid of being attacked for their environmental footprint.

Until now, the French generator market was quite limited, with rather stable sales. It is mainly aimed at structures that must be equipped for regulatory reasons (shopping centers, hospitals, etc.), and those that have specific needs, such as major construction sites and event organizers.

The prices are very variable

But today, the demand changes dimension. “Many manufacturers are panicking and looking for solutions, especially those who cannot afford to stop their machines”, explains Frank Roubanovitch, President of the CLEEE, an association of large energy consumers. Some want to run the groups 24 hours a day, which also requires the urgent construction of tanks, some of which can hold up to 20,000 litres. To get one megawatt hour of electricity, you need 250 liters of diesel.

To meet their needs, companies are also looking to rent several generators, connected to each other. This is the case, for example, in metallurgy, sugar refineries or even cement factories, whose demand can be around 10 MWh. The prices of the installations vary, obviously, according to the size. It takes about twenty thousand euros for a plant supplying a food store equipped with refrigerators.

Shortages on all components

For large installations, the bill can rise to €400,000 for those producing 1 MWh. There are few manufacturers, and to the cost of the machine itself is added the electrical equipment needed to operate it, such as transformers.

“We are in a situation of shortage of everything, such as cables, and waiting times are getting longer. To have a large circuit breaker, it takes between fifteen and twenty weeks. Ditto for a tank of diesel. For a high-voltage transformer, there is a one-year delay,” underlines the boss of Axciss. There is also a lack of personnel, both to pour the concrete and to adjust the installations. In the Drekan factory in Aisne, employees now work on Saturdays and the company is urgently looking to hire temporary workers.

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