Letter: Price of French electricity imports

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The Independent Online
Sir: Electricite de France (EDF) has studiously avoided becoming involved in the British energy debate in the belief that it would be inappropriate for us to pass comment on the affairs of another country. However, Jonathan Foster's article 'Miners face sack 'to secure French jobs' ' (14 January), on the electricity interconnector between England and France, requires some correction if a balanced level of understanding is to be obtained.

1. Interconnector capacity between Britain and France has existed since the early Sixties to provide mutual support and added security for the electricity systems of both countries. The costs of construction were shared between the Central Electricity Generating Board and EDF. There are similar interconnections between other countries in the European Community. Power has flowed from France to England of late, but it is by no means impossible that this flow could change direction in the foreseeable future because of the supply/demand balances in the two countries. Our current contract offers into the England and Wales system are time limited for precisely this reason.

2. Power is delivered into the England and Wales system only when EDF's bids are price competitive. In these circumstances, the price of the entire system is kept down for the benefit of the consumer. Furthermore, EDF's presence in the market is seen by power purchasers as a modest but welcome element of competition in a market that is not overendowed with it.

3. There is limited grid connection between the North of England and the South. British-mined coal is generally burnt in the power stations in the North and Midlands, with oil, imported coal and nuclear fuels predominating in the South. For significant proportions of the year, therefore, the Anglo-French interconnector competes with oil and imported coal rather than British-mined coal. It is fallacious to equate the interconnector with 7 million tons of British coal.

4. Finally, the article refers to 'dumping' of electricity and quotes unnamed coal industry sources saying, 'doubts persist about how they (EDF) do their calculations'. This I really cannot understand.

Like any major enterprise, EDF is required to publish detailed accounts that give more than enough information on these matters, and its financial and commercial policies have been scrutinised by the European Commission, which has found nothing wrong with them. An examination will show that EDF follows entirely normal commercial and accounting practices. In addition, full provision is made for exceptional costs such as decommissioning and fuel reprocessing. All this has been made clear to the Department of Trade and Industry and the House of Commons Select Committee in the course of their inquiries. As a responsible body, EDF has replied fully to all the questions put to it by the British government and Parliament.

Yours faithfully,

JEAN-PIERRE GUERY

Controleur General, Adjoint

Charge des Echanges d'Energie

Electricite de France

Paris

17 January

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