energy bars

Blocking the Flow

Isar nuclear energy paul langrock zenit laif-DISTORTED
Clouding relations between France and Germany.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The big problem in competing subsidies for energy-intensive industries: They favor large firms and punish small ones.

  • Facts


    • At 5.7 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity, an energy-intensive factory in Germany pays 0.9 cents more than a competitor in France.
    • A French proposal would reduce network fees for energy-intensive industries by up to 60 percent.
    • Climate goals are stymied by national interests.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

After 50 years of German-French friendship, ministers in both countries set up an energy partnership in 2013. At best, this collaboration is working, but not quite as planned. Formally, Germany and France are working together; but actually, they are falling over themselves to support industries which are energy-hungry.

One of the “partnership-oriented” themes is support for generating and marketing electricity, an area where France is eagerly learning from Germany. The French suspect that Germany charges private households a very high price for electricity and, in turn, subsidizes energy-intensive industries. And companies and politicians in France are convinced that measures taken by the European Commission only partially reduce the disadvantages this creates for French industry.

The same goes for electricity as in every market: Since the game is played with marked cards, you can never trust your opponent — oops, friend, I mean. German businesses are convinced they pay almost twice what their French counterparts are charged for cheap electricity from nuclear plants.

But according to the Fraunhofer research institute, an energy-hungry factory in Germany pays 5.7 cents per kilowatt-hour, only 0.9 cents more than a competitor pays in France. In any case, actual prices paid by major customers are not known because contracts are confidential.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.