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France Must Open Dams to Competition, European Commission Says

France needs to allow competition in its hydropower industry following “obvious” delays, said the European Commission’s chief representative in the country.

“The Commission is being very vigilant,” Anne Houtman, head of the organization’s representation in France, said at a gas and power conference in Paris. France “must enable access to hydroelectricity. There is an obvious delay,” she said.

President Francois Hollande’s government hasn’t said if there will be tenders for French dam concessions held by state-run Electricite de France SA and former gas monopoly GDF Suez SA. The Energy Ministry in the prior government was drawing up plans to invite bids, saying in April 2010 that permits to run 10 dams with a combined output of 5,300 megawatts, or about a fifth of the total, would be up for renewal through 2015.

EDF has 4,400 megawatts of that and GDF Suez 623 megawatts. The dams are in the Alps, Massif Central and Pyrenees regions.

Further development could expand to as much as 7 terawatt hours, according to Afieg, representing European utilities such as Alpiq Holding AG, Enel SpA, EON AG and Vattenfall AB that are seeking to operate French concessions. Fleur Thesmar, head of the group, said it wants tenders begun “as soon as possible.”

Vattenfall, the Nordic region’s largest utility, said in February it would bid for concessions with ArcelorMittal, Rhodia SA and Societe Nationale des Chemins de Fer Francais, the French national railroad. EON of Germany and Hydrocop Concessions, a power distributor in eight French regions, also teamed up.

The office of Environment and Energy Minister Delphine Batho declined to comment on the matter when contacted today.

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