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EXPLAINED: What your French energy bills will look like in 2023

France's freeze on gas prices comes to an end at the end of 2022, while the four percent cap on electricity price rises also expires - however the government has now announced the price caps for 2023. Here's what that will mean for your monthly energy bills.

EXPLAINED: What your French energy bills will look like in 2023
Bill will rise in France in 2023. Photo by DENIS CHARLET / AFP

In September, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne held a press conference on the subject on energy bills and announced that, although bills will rise in 2023, the rise will be contained via a government-imposed price cap.

Here’s what that means for your household bills.

January 2023 

From January, gas bills can increase by up to a maximum of 15 percent for customers of Engie (formerly known as Gaz de France). For the average consumer this will represent a rise of €25 per month, although obviously your bill will vary depending on the size of the home that you are heating. If you live in a small apartment, the price rise will probably be more like €15. 

February 2023

From February electricity prices can also rise, again by a maximum of 15 percent. As before, the cap applies only to customers of EDF who are on the base rate tariff.

This will represent a rise of €20 per month for the average customer.

Businesses 

The price cap covers households but also small businesses – those businesses that have a turnover of less than €1 million per year – and the smaller communes such as village mairies.

Businesses that have seen a decline in profits, or those for whom energy bills represent more than three percent of their total turnover, will also benefit from the regulated tariff.

Grants 

Although French consumers are among the best protected in Europe from rising energy price rises, the increase in energy bills – coming in partnership with rising prices for other essentials such as food – will still be tough for those on low incomes.

The government therefore announced a one-off chèque energie of between €100 and €200 for low income households, which is expected to have reached 12 million households – or roughly four in 10.

Despite its name, the chèque energie is actually a cash grant, paid directly into your bank account.

The amount is calculated according to your circumstances – so for example a family with two children where the parents earn minimum wage will get €200, while a family with two children where the net monthly income is €3,000 or less will get €100.

The chèque was paid in December 2022 – and if you received previous grants and chèques energie it should have been paid to you automatically.

The grants are usually distributed automatically to people on low income, based on previous year’s tax declarations, but foreigners and recent arrivals can slip through the net, especially pensioners.

If you believe that you are eligible but haven’t received previous grants, you can go to your local CAF office to ask about eligibility.

The French government has also announced additional energy grants for families that primarily use wood heating to help combat soaring wood prices. These cheques are also means-tested. 

For households that heat using fuel-oil, the French government has also offered a dedicated energy grant, but this cannot be used in tandem with the wood energy cheque.

You can learn more about how to access these grants here.

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PROTESTS

French bakers protest over surging power prices

Dressed in aprons and brandishing baguettes, hundreds of bakers demonstrated in the streets of Paris on Monday to warn that the country's beloved bread and croissant makers were under threat from surging electricity and raw material costs.

French bakers protest over surging power prices

“We feel like there’s a huge injustice,” said Sylvie Leduc from the rural Dordogne region who had travelled to the capital for the protest. “We know how to run a business, that’s not a problem, but we’re faced with increases that are just impossible to pass on to customers.”

The protest was yet another sign of the anger and incomprehension felt by many French people over the sudden price hikes linked to the war in Ukraine, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic that hit global supply chains.

Bakers were already struggling with higher butter and flour costs, while the price of eggs has also spiked because of a national bird flu outbreak that has hit many French farms.

The final straw for many of the country’s 35,000 bakeries has been the annual renewal of their electricity contracts, with suppliers suddenly asking for astronomical monthly payments in 2023.

READ MORE: Boulangeries across France face closure as energy bills skyrocket

Leduc’s husband Jean-Philippe said their power bill had increased six-fold in January, meaning they could hang on for only a few more months before being forced to close — unless financial help arrived. 

“Thirty years of being a baker and it’s going to finish like this? I could never have imagined it,” he said, shaking his head. “We don’t want hand-outs, we just want to be able to live from our work.” 

For the French, their local bakery is about more than simple food shopping: they serve as a symbol of the national way of life, while providing a focal point for many communities.

“The day starts with a baguette!” former presidential candidate Jean Lassalle, an ardent defender of traditional rural French communities, told AFP at the rally.

“These people are the ones who get up the earliest in France and they’ve had enough.”

‘Bakeries in Danger’

Given the emotional attachment to French bread, the government of President Emmanuel Macron has sought to highlight the help on offer for small business owners.

Macron welcomed bakers to the presidential palace on January 6, telling them: “I’m on your side”.

He outlined various government schemes which could help bring down electricity bills by 40 percent for eligible businesses.

But many of those demonstrating said the different systems put in place were either too complicated, too slow to deliver help, or  available for only the smallest bakeries with less than 12 employees, for example.

Some carried banners reading “Bakeries in Danger”, while one man pushed a wooden coffin on wheels with a skeleton inside dressed in a baker’s apron and trousers.

Many said they had always accepted the long hours, lack of sleep and gruelling physical labour out of the love for the profession, but felt compelled to hit the streets now.

“I’ve never seen bakers protest before,” said Joelle Reimel, 56, who said her monthly power bill for her bakery 50 kilometres (30 miles) southwest of Paris had increased from €2,500 a month to €14,000.

“We don’t have time to demonstrate normally. We’re up at 2am and go to bed at 8 in the evening.”

Pension protests

The protest came after one of the biggest demonstrations in decades last Thursday when more than a million people protested against an unpopular pension reform that will raise the age of retirement to 64 for most people.

Macron’s opponents have sought to pin the blame for electricity rises on him and European Union rules which mean power prices across the bloc are linked to the price of gas, even if the electricity is generated from other sources.

Anti-immigration and eurosceptic leader Marine Le Pen has assailed the “refusal of Emmanuel Macron to break from the absurd European rules on the electricity market.”

Macron has acknowledged that European electricity pricing rules are “flawed” and has promised to reform them.

For Lionel Bonnamy, the fate of France’s bakeries is also about the country’s economic model, which has long sought to protect small shopkeepers and artisans — what he called the “economic fabric” of the country.

“If we carry on this way, everything will look the same, uniform, big business,” said the award-winning baker from Paris.

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