“Without resorting to nuclear power, Enercoop might not survive”

“Without resorting to nuclear power, Enercoop might not survive”

Faced with soaring electricity prices, Enercoop, electricity supplier 100 % renewables, has decided to temporarily use electricity from nuclear power. A decision adopted at 88 % by the members of the cooperative, meeting in a general meeting on Saturday June 18 in Paris. It supplies more than 100,000 customers with electricity from renewable energies and produced by small electricity producers based in France.

From 2023 and for a maximum of three years, Enercoop will thus have recourse to regulated access to historical nuclear electricity » (Arenh). This mechanism allows electricity suppliers to buy the energy produced by nuclear power plants at low cost fromEDF.

Olivier Soufflot, Deputy Managing Director of Enercoop, and Béatrice Delpech, Deputy Managing Director, explain this choice to Reporterre.

Reporterre — Since its creation, Enercoop has claimed its opposition to nuclear energy. How do you justify the choice to turn to her today ?

Beatrice Delpech This decision was imposed on us. At the end of 2021, we were suffocated by soaring electricity prices on the market. Without resorting to the Arenh, we might have survived, but that would have meant making sacrifices to the heart of our project.

Indeed, we are not only energy suppliers. It is only a means to contribute effectively to the increase in the production of renewable energy in France. We also develop our own means of energy production and offer our customers support services in their efforts to reduce energy. If we are asphyxiated to the point of being unable to do anything but provide energy to our customers, our action becomes meaningless.

Did you have alternatives ? Increase the cost of subscriptions, for example ?

Beatrice Delpech Before deciding on this choice, we had already taken painful steps. Since December, we no longer accept new clients. And we have decided on price increases in February, April and July. It is no longer possible to put this burden on our members.

Olivier Soufflot We are the only ones, in 2022, not to use the Arenh. This mechanism generates very high price differentials: it forces EDF to sell the energy produced by its nuclear power plants at 42 euros per megawatt hour (MWh), when it reaches 300 euros on the market ! This mechanism creates a gap with other electricity suppliers that is difficult to bear for a player who does not want to use it. Especially since in one year, the price of electricity on the market has been multiplied by six, on average.

The model we are aiming for is a resilient model. » © EB/Reporterre

It is therefore gradually, after discussions with our members, that we have agreed to this option for a period that we want to be as short as possible. Time to put in place a more resilient model, based on energy production costs, and not on market fluctuations.

You buy your electricity directly from more than 400 renewable electricity producers throughout France. Why are you exposed to the variation of electricity prices on the market ?

Beatrice Delpech First, part of the contracts that bind us to our producers are correlated to the market. When market prices increase, the cost of purchasing increases for us as well.

On the other hand, we buy our electricity in advance, but we are obliged to resort to one-off purchases on the market to ensure our balance. This may be the case if a winter is particularly harsh and the energy consumption exceeds what we had anticipated.

Can you assure your members that recourse to the Arenh is a temporary solution ? How are you going to do without nuclear power after 2025? ?

Olivier Soufflot Our ambition is to move from the French model, based mainly on the market, to a model based on production costs.

To do this, we want to develop long-term purchasing contracts, for periods of 20 to 30 years, and the development of Enercoop’s own means of production. We already have about ten projects of this type in progress. But developing a photovoltaic or wind project is done over the long term. It takes seven years for wind power. Temporarily resorting to the Arenh gives us time to develop these projects.

Beatrice Delpech Today, this type of contract represents 5 % of the energy we supply. We want to go to 20 % in 2025 and at 30 % or 40 % by 2030.

The model we are aiming for is a resilient model. It will make it possible to increase the production of renewable energy in France, while protecting consumers, since the cost of energy is known in advance. This is the way of the future.

You are now forced to resort to nuclear energy. Doesn’t this prove that it is impossible today to do without the atom in France? ?

Beatrice Delpech We continue to believe that nuclear energy has no future and that we must get out of it as soon as possible.

Only, today, the market is skewed. The Arenh device gives the illusion that nuclear energy is cheap, but that is completely false. The price of electricity is completely decorrelated from reality. By joining the Arenh, we try to free ourselves from a completely crazy market thanks to a surreal device.

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