French pensioner cuts off power to Spain

A French pensioner's risky political protest had unexpected consequences on Tuesday after his decision to climb up a high-voltage pylon saw a power company shutting down electricity supplies to Spain.

French pensioner cuts off power to Spain
Photo: AFP

The 73-year-old man climbed up a high-voltage electricity pylon in south east France, forcing authorities to cut the power that supplies Spain, officials said on Tuesday.

He took two hours to scale the 50-metre (160-foot) pylon and was sitting only 10 metres away from the 400,000 volt lines that usually export power to Spain.

Power officials had to take emergency action to keep the nearby city of Narbonne (population around 50,000) supplied with electricity.

Network company RTE said in a statement: “For safety reasons, the lines were switched off, which had no consequences for the power supply in the region nor for exported electricity to Spain.”

The man came down from his risky perch early Tuesday morning with the help of specialized fire officers and police negotiators.

His motives were not immediately clear but he appeared to be somewhat of a political activist.

He unfurled a banner calling for France's long-dead wartime leader Charles De Gaulle to stand in the forthcoming 2017 presidential election as well as a banner that read “crooks out.”

RTE said in its statement that people who climb power lines could be prosecuted and said it might take legal action.





Why are electricity prices in France set to jump (yet) again?

After just a brief reprieve, electricity prices in France are set to jump once again in August. So, why is this happening?

Why are electricity prices in France set to jump (yet) again?
Illustration photo: AFP
At the beginning of August, the price of electricity will increase by 1.2 percent after a previous jump of 5.9 percent took place just two months ago, in June. 
So, why have two price hikes been scheduled in such a short space of time?
Well, it seems the reason for the short space between the two hikes is all down to the 'yellow vests' – or at least French President Emmanuel Macron's response to their demands. 
That's because the increase on June 1st was originally scheduled for February 1st – right in the middle of the 'yellow vest' crisis – before the government decided to push it back in an attempt to appease the demonstrators.  

France to close 14 nuclear reactors by 2035 an all coal-fired power plants by 2022Photo: AFP

France's energy regulator (CRE) sets the regulated prices of electricity every six months – in winter and in summer – and this time both hikes will take place within just a couple of months of each other. 
“We will have had both shots at once,” Fanny Guinochet from L'Opinion told Franceinfo
“The price hike was expected. We can just console ourselves by saying that August's will be less significant than the one we just had,” she said, referring to the fact that the June hike was almost 6 percent compared to the August increase of 1.2 percent. 
According to Guinochet, this hike will represent an increase of around €18 extra every year on average for a home that has electric heating. That's after an annual increase of €85 brought in by the previous hike. 
“This is one of the strongest increases recorded,” said Guinochet. 
The government is also hoping that by rushing through this new increase in summer people will find it easier to swallow.
But, why is the increase happening at all?
As is often the case, the price hike is primarily due to rising taxes – in this case the TURPE tax (Tarif d'Utilisation des Réseaux Publics d'Electricité). 
However it is also linked to several other factors, including supply costs, and changing energy prices on the wholesale markets, which are very variable. 
On a more positive note for consumers, the French government wants to stabilise the cost of electricity by 2020 as part of its new energy bill, which would mean a “change to the method used to calculate electricity tariffs”, according to the French Minister for the Environment François de Rugy.
“I want to give the French a form of price stability related to the stability of the cost of electricity production by nuclear power plants,” he said, adding that 70 percent of France's electricity is produced by nuclear power stations. 
This means that the cost of electricity should be “fairly stable” and “fixed by law”, said the minister, explaining that if French power giant EDF and its competitors have access to fixed-cost nuclear electricity the number of price hikes should be limited. 
Today, the regulated electricity tariffs, applied by EDF to around 25 million households, are set by the French Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a complex calculations, which take into account the evolution of the wholesale market price.