France: EDF embraces self-consumption and digitization

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French households and businesses “will now become able to use the energy generated by their own solar panels and have the option of storing some of it for use when they need it later,” said EDF.

A description of the new EDF service explains that customers will be able to tailor the installation to their own electricity needs, track their electricity consumption online using tablet and smartphone apps and have greater control of their electricity bills.

In other words, what EDF describes in its press release is hardly anything new, and fits with the sector’s transition into the digitization era. This was in fact the subject of the last Forum Solarpraxis, while pv magazine has already reported in detail why the digitization trend focuses predominantly on consumers.

The nuclear power obstacle

“Currently, self-consumption of renewable electricity is becoming an effective solution for consumers increasingly looking to keep a tight grip on their bills and their carbon footprint,” said Antoine Cahuzac, CEO of EDF Energies Nouvelles, the renewable energies arm of the EDF company.

Cahuzac’s remarks are largely valid, however, in France specifically the case is potentially harder to define. This is because France’s electricity prices are among the lowest in Europe.

A report published last year by Deloitte, a global audit, consulting, financial advisory and risk management firm, says France’s electricity prices are largely driven by the fact that its nuclear power plants are amortized. Furthermore, the report adds, "electricity prices are likely to increase in the coming years as investments are made to improve the grid, extend the useful life of nuclear power plants and upgrade their safety standards to post-Fukushima expectations."

It appears EDF has bet on the latest projections and on consumers’ personal ambitions of going green. The company is the world’s biggest electricity generator and has more than 25 million residential electricity customers in France.