PARIS, April 29 French Energy Minister Segolene
Royal suggested creating semi-public companies to run hydropower
stations after a former minister criticised a plan to open up
the sector to competition, under pressure from the European
Many utilities and big electricity consumers have expressed
an interest in France's hydroelectric sector, which is dominated
by former state monopoly EDF, given that the cost of
building dams has mostly been recouped.
Delphine Batho, a former energy minister who was dismissed
by President Francois Hollande last July, criticised on Monday
what she said was a secret plan to liberalise the sector against
the wishes of many Socialist MPs.
Royal said in a statement on Tuesday that she had proposed a
compromise that would maintain government control of the
hydropower licences and still respect EU competition
She suggested the creation of joint ventures between private
companies and local governments, modelled on the Compagnie
nationale du Rhone (CNR) in which GDF Suez holds an
indirect minority stake and the rest is owned by a raft of local
authorities and the state holding company.
Under French law, private investors cannot own less than 15
percent in a semi-public company (societe d'economie mixte,
In 2010, the more than 400 hydroelectric concessions had
capacity totalling 24,300 MW, nearly half the total of France's
58 nuclear power plants and 20 percent of its overall capacity.
Royal said 150 concessions were set to expire before 2023,
accounting for 25 percent of French hydropower production.
Some 80 percent of state-owned concessions are now managed
by EDF and 12 percent indirectly by GDF Suez.
When EDF became a corporation in 2004, the European Union
called for the opening up of some capacity to competition.
Companies such as Direct Energie, Sweden's Vattenfall
and Germany's E.ON have expressed an interest.
(Reporting by Michel Rose; editing by Jane Baird)