France upholds EDF's nuclear power price level

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government said on Tuesday it had decided to maintain the price at which former monopoly EDF sells a chunk of its wholesale power from nuclear reactors to competitors at just below current wholesale market levels.

Since 2012 state-owned EDF, which operates France's 58 nuclear reactors, has been forced to sell a quarter of its nuclear-generated electricity to competitors at 42 euros (£35.61) per megawatt-hour (MWh) to foster more competition in the lacklustre power retail market.

France wants to maintain the 42 euros/MWh level until a new calculation system to work out the price comes into place at the end of the first quarter of 2014. EDF's selling price is only 1 euro lower than the wholesale market price.

"This price will have to be representative of the economic conditions at which the electricity from the nuclear fleet is produced," the finance and energy ministries said in a news release.

EDF's 19 nuclear plants, which meet around 75 percent of the country's power needs, have turned profitable over the past two decades, allowing French consumers to benefit from prices around a third cheaper than in neighbouring countries.

France, which has one of Europe's most closed electricity markets, set a 5 percent tariff rise in August, finally giving retail power suppliers the possibility to grab some of EDF's 92 percent market share.

French homes have snubbed the opening of the retail electricity market for years due to stubbornly low regulated tariffs made possible by EDF's fleet of nuclear reactors and a lack of information from the authorities, industry players say.

(Reporting by Muriel Boselli; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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