French Socialists Push for Review of Hydropower-Dam Tender Plan

French plans to open hydroelectric concessions to competitive bidding, as proposed by the previous government, should be reviewed because they threaten to drive up power prices, lawmakers from the ruling Socialist Party said.

“We could lose control over our most competitive energy,” deputy Marie-Noelle Battistel told a parliamentary hearing today. Competitive tenders may “go against” industry needs for cheap power, she said.

Battistel was presenting a report on plans under former President Nicolas Sarkozy to invite bids for rights to run about 5,300 megawatts of hydro plants, France’s biggest power source after nuclear energy. Foreign utilities Vattenfall AB, Enel SpA and EON SE have signaled they would bid for concessions held by former monopolies Electricite de France SA and GDF Suez SA.

“Water is a public good,” said Francois Brottes, who heads the economic affairs commission in parliament. Brottes said last year that holding competitive tenders for hydro dams wouldn’t be a priority for the government under Socialist President Francois Hollande, who took power in May 2012.

Socialist Party senators have already proposed that GDF and EDF be allowed to extend their concessions by 25 years, a suggestion that Vattenfall said may contradict national laws.

“Our patience is wearing thin,” Frederic de Maneville, president of the utility’s French operations, said last month in an interview.

Other European countries including Sweden, Norway and Switzerland have failed to open their hydroelectric industries to competition, according to Battistel, who said that companies taking over dams would be able to sell the power abroad.

France, where nuclear energy accounts for three-quarters of electricity output, has about 25,000 megawatts of hydropower.

The nation “must enable access to hydroelectricity,” Anne Houtman, head of the European Commission’s representation in the country, said at a Paris conference in September.

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