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EDF: Jean-Bernard Levy renews Macron signed with an electric plane

It is now official: at the head of the electrician since 26 November 2014 and candidate for his own follow-up, the current CEO of EDF will renew for a new term of five years. The Elysee announced Thursday that Emmanuel Macron "Plans, at the proposal of the Prime Minister, to renew Jean-Bernard Lévy as President and CEO of EDF". The proposal to renew the 63-year-old Polytechnic at the head of the French energy giant will be presented to the shareholders on 16 May at the general meeting of the group. And since the state shareholder is at home in Electricité de France, with 83.66% of the capital, there is little tension. This is the first time in EDF's recent history that a leader will serve more than one term.


We must believe that Jean-Bernard Lévy is considered by Emmanuel Macron as the man of the situation to steer this moloch – 70 billion euros in sales and 150,000 workers – in the turbulence, competitive, financial and strategic zone that is coming. Telecom engineer in the country of X-Mines, Lorrain rather smiling, but looks a little stiff, the profile of a servant of the state has broke the world of business. After starting his career as a senior civil servant at the Directorate-General for Telecommunications, "JBL" worked at Matra-Lagardère, then at Oddo Bank, before he started playing firefighting at the head of Vivendi (Universal, Canal +, SFR … ) in 2002 after the fall of Jean-Marie Messier. He eventually landed at the head of defense and security company Thales in 2012, at the request of the state. And in 2014 François Hollande Lévy called on EDF to end the Proglio era and clean up the French nuclear industry, entangled in the industrial disaster of the EPR reactor.

This time Emmanuel Macron seems to have more specific projects for EDF. In this case cut projects. For months there have been scenarios that separate the activities of EDF between Bercy, Matignon and the Elysée. In short, it would be a question of regrouping the nuclear and hydraulic assets within an entity that remains under close control of the state. And to branch out activities in renewable energy and services. Aim: on the one hand to keep the strategic basis of electricity production in the open (more than 70% of the power comes from the atom and 10% from the hydraulic dams) while the financial risk of a park is limited nuclear energy subject to enormous costs of modernization and deconstruction ; on the other hand, to open up the capital of the energy activities of tomorrow, such as wind energy and especially solar energy, to private investors. A scheme that would have the advantage of easing the financial pressure on the group, but that makes the trade unions shout home. The powerful CGT energy in mind, the latter remain fiercely opposed to what they find a "Disassembly" and a hidden privatization of EDF.

In return, the government would propose electricians to maintain their famous status of electrical and gas industry (IEG). The latter would therefore be less abused than railway staff of the SNCF. It is this delicate mission – suicide? – that seems to entrust Emmanuel Macron to Jean-Bernard Lévy.

In any case, the situation of EDF is not rosy if we look closely. Driven by a debt that flirts with 40 billion euros, the group can not get enough money every year to cope with the huge investments that its fleet of 58 nuclear reactors requires. Year after year, it generates more than 3 billion euros in profits. And since the opening for competition, the incumbent loses its customers, even if it still dominates 80% of the electricity market of households. But it will have to pay 50 billion euros to extend the lifespan of its aging nuclear power plants until 2030 and beyond. And at least as much to dismantle the 14 reactors of 900 MW that have to be closed in 2035 as part of the energy transition decided by the recent multi-year energy program (PPE). The electrician will also have to check the cost drift of the Flamanville EPR reactor in the Channel, the commissioning of which, initially planned for 2012, has been postponed to 2020. From 3.3 billion euros, the large reactor of 1,650 MW has already more than tripled to almost 11 billion! And it will also be necessary to run the risky site of the two UK EPDs of Hinkley Point.


Levy now knows all these things that have been undermined by heart. And he knew how to save the EDF trade unions that formed one with him to defend the nuclear activity of the group. To the great annoyance of Greenpeace, which has multiplied the spectacular actions under its rule, including various burglaries in power plants that would have to prove their security vulnerabilities. Honored by the proponents of the exit of the atom who consider him as one "Nucleocrat" the boss of EDF has nevertheless presented ambitious development plans in the past few years in solar, electricity or electric mobility.

But he will have to be particularly skilled to direct the reorganization of EDF that Emmanuel Macron demands from him in a tense national social context. Among the allegations of yellow vests, the maintenance of public services, of which EDF remains a symbol, and the control of energy prices indeed seems to be in a good place. This Friday morning at 11 o'clock, the current Chief of EDF will say more about his vision of the future until 2024 by presenting the results of 2018 of his group.

Jean-Christophe Féraud

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