The government is setting up an “electricity buffer” for businesses and communities

After the tariff shield put in place in the fall of 2021 for households, place at the« electricity damper » for businesses and local authorities, to help them support their soaring bills.

Negotiated for several days in Brussels, the precise terms of this new support mechanism were unveiled by the government on Thursday 27 October. The cost to public finances is estimated at 12 billion euros: 10 for businesses and 2 for communities. These amounts come in particular from the taxation of the profits of energy companies, decided by the Europeans.

There was urgency. For weeks, discussions between the European Commission and the Member States to bring down gas and electricity prices have been going around in circles, while feedback from the field underlines the worsening situation for companies. Production cuts are mounting with fears of going into chain failures next year.

A multi-stage device

VSEs (companies with less than 20 employees), which do not benefit from the regulated sales tariff (TRV), SMEs (less than 500), associations, communities, but also universities and hospitals, will now have a “electric damper”. The government’s objective is to limit the price of electricity to around €400/MWh on average next year for businesses. This is still an amount 4 to 5 times higher than the price level of 2019.

The State will bear part of the bill, following a complex device, knowing that about half is already covered by the Arenh device, which obliges EDF to sell part of its production (100 TWh) at low prices (€42/MWh), a system renewed in the same proportions for 2023. “The relief could reach €120 per megawatt hour. It will be automatically and directly deducted from the company’s electricity bill », explained the Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire. It will enter into force on January 1, 2023.

Simplification of aid

For larger companies, with more than 250 employees, a one-stop shop will be set up. Or rather completely revised, because the one created last July does not work, due to criteria that are far too complex. It is supported to the tune of 3 billion euros.

Thus, a company will be able to receive aid as soon as its bill increases by 50% (whereas a doubling was necessary until now) and if its bill exceeds 3% of turnover by the end of 2022 (and no longer in 2021). The aid ceiling has also been doubled to 100 million. But points are still under discussion with the European Commission. For certain specific cases, the government also intends to bring the files one by one to Brussels. A down payment system should also be introduced for companies having cash flow difficulties.

A mixed reception

Companies expected higher amounts of aid. But budgetary constraints have weighed. The concern remains strong for all those who have 10 employees and make less than 2 million euros in turnover, but do not benefit from a TRV and therefore from a tariff shield, because their meter has a higher power at 36 kilovolt amperes. This is the case, for example, of all traders who have a few fridges or an oven, such as restaurants or bakers.

Several employers’ organizations, as well as the farmers of the FNSEA, demanded the abandonment of this meter criterion, explaining that they could not pass on to customers the entire increase in their charges. They feel like they haven’t been heard.

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