March 25, 2014 / 3:41 PM / 3 years ago

France to delay lifting price EDF's rivals pay for nuclear power

PARIS, March 25 (Reuters) - France’s decision on whether to allow EDF to raise the price at which it must sell a quarter of its nuclear power to competitors will be delayed past end-March, said sources close to the matter and the head of a rival firm.

The utility is waiting for a government decree on a new calculation method for the “Arenh” price at which it sells nuclear-generated electricity to competitors such as Direct Energie in exchange for its monopoly on nuclear power production.

“The decree is not finished for the moment,” a source close to the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

“The government finds it difficult to take a decision, (...) it’s politically difficult to take a decision,” another source said, adding that the new decree could be ready in the summer.

Direct Energie top executive Fabien Chone told Reuters he expected a decision to come this summer at the earliest.

“It’s materially impossible to publish this decree before the end of March,” he said.

A spokeswoman for the energy ministry said consultations on the subject were being reviewed, without giving an expected date for the new decree. EDF and the finance ministry declined to comment on the matter.

EDF Chief Executive Henri Proglio has said he hopes the Arenh will rise progressively to 50 euros per megawatt/hour, which he says is the effective production cost, from the current 42 euros.

The Arenh price has been criticised from all sides since it was first put in place in July 2011.

EDF’s smaller rivals say it is too high to allow them to really compete with the former monopoly power provider, and power-intensive industries say the tariff is already high enough to sap their competitiveness. (Reporting by Benjamin Mallet, writing by Michel Rose; editing by Jane Baird)

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