Click here to download this week's full edition of Macro Chartmania composed of more than 100 charts to track the latest macroeconomic and market developments. All the data are collected from Macrobond and updated each week.
France’s electricity prices are close to record highs. The baseload power price is above €900 per MWh – see below chart. Many other European countries face similar prices (Germany, Belgium, Italy, for instance). But tensions are higher in France. The French-1 year electricity forward is at the highest level among major developed European economies. Last Friday, it jumped to a historical record of €1,000 per MWh (versus €900 per MWh for Germany). This represents an increase of +1000 % compared with the long-term average of 2010-2020. This is also a clear signal that traders don’t expect prices to get back to normal anytime soon.
Contrary to other European countries, France’s energy crisis has little to do with the Ukraine war and the European sanctions against Russian gas. This is mostly due to corrosion issues in nuclear reactors (this caused the shutdown of about half of France's fifty-six nuclear reactors.) and low water levels related to unusual heat during the summer (three nuclear reactors were shut down temporarily because of climate conditions this month). The country is highly dependent on nuclear energy. This represents about 69 % of electricity generation (this is a larger share than any other country). About 17 % of nuclear electricity is produced thanks to recycled materials. Summer heat will likely stop soon. But corrosion issues are partially structural and here to stay. In a statement a few months ago, the French nuclear energy regulator ASN mentioned that a restart of nuclear reactors closed due to corrosion could take up to several years. The risk of electricity shortage is therefore real this winter (no matter how the weather conditions are, actually). During the summer, electricity demand is around 45 GWh. During the winter, higher consumption will push electricity demand around 80-90 GWh on average. This will put under tension all France's electricity infrastructure, thus increasing the risk of a shortage. We think that France is certainly in a worse position than Germany when it comes to energy supply (at least, in the short-term).
So far, the French government has mitigated the energy crisis by capping electricity and gas prices for households (gas prices were frozen at Autumn 2021’s levels and electricity price increase was capped at +4 % this year). This does not apply to corporations, however. This cannot last forever. The cap on energy prices will expire at the end of the year for gas and in February 2023 for electricity. The government is not planning to extend it further. It is too costly (about €20bn so far this year on a total of €44bn of various measures to support companies and households facing high inflation. This represents the total annual budget for education in France). From 2023, more targeted measures to help the low-income households to cope with higher energy prices is the most likely scenario. Will it be enough ? This is far from certain. A repeat of the 2018 Yellow Vest Movement (meaning massive demonstrations against the cost of living) is not out of the table, in our view.