French CFO points finger at Kazakhstan to warn of need to control soaring energy prices

FFrance’s chief economic and financial officer called the country’s energy crisis “an absolute emergency” as consumers face rising electricity bills due to an electricity shortage.

Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said taxpayers would see a 35% to 40% increase in electricity bills with no solution to the shortage, which is largely due to planned outages at two nuclear power plants.

“It is an absolute emergency because the explosion in electricity prices is not sustainable either for households or for companies”, Le Maire noted at a press conference on Friday.

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He also highlighted social unrest in Kazakhstan, where protests against high fuel prices, which started earlier in the week, then turned into violence. Authorities to say dozens of protesters were killed, along with at least 18 members of the country’s security forces.

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has since ordered the police and the military to shoot all remaining protesters.

“Look at what is happening in Kazakhstan,” said Le Maire. “It’s pretty informative in terms of what can happen when the prices of energy, electricity or gas skyrocket. It’s politically dangerous.

The French utility Electricité de France SA decommissioned at least four nuclear reactors from two different power plants at the end of last year for maintenance work. The outages resulted in a loss of around 1 terrawatt hour for the electricity grid until the end of 2021, according to EDF, with additional losses downstream. One of the factories will remain offline until January 23, while the other will be back online in early spring.

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The blackout has forced the French government and producers to find a way to fill a gap in the grid, and authorities are considering relax restrictions on coal-fired electricity to do this.

Le Maire’s warning coincides with a long-standing energy crisis that Europe has faced much of last year, when the prices of various energy products and electricity hit record highs.