Electricite de France (EDF) is France’s biggest utility. EDF is also the biggest stockholder in the Constellation Energy Group (CEG) that owns BGE, Maryland’s largest utility. (A Maryland judge recently rejected CEG’s challenge to the Maryland Public Service Commission’s authority to investigate EDF’s investment in CEG.)
Naturally, Marylanders want to know: Will government-owned EDF be a good corporate citizen in our state? Well might we wonder.
According to an article in the New York Times, EDF has flexed its muscle to win a French regulatory decision that will strangle an innovative energy efficiency program for homeowners.
Voltalis’s Bluepod boxes, free to consumers, plug into the home electrical panel and communicate back to the company’s computers by Internet. When, for example, summerdemand on the electrical grid nears a peak, the system would automatically turn off air-conditioners for hundreds or thousands of consumers willing to give up the coolers for a short time to avoid the need for additional electrical production to come on line.
The company says its “distributive load shedding” technology can save users as much as 10 percent on their electricity bills and save power producers billions in investments in new plants used only to meet peak demand. Voltalis’s business model assumes the grid operator pays Voltalis for help in maintaining supply and demand equilibrium.
But the regulatory commission ruled that Voltalis should pay the power company because “its service would not be possible without the producer maintaining production.”
Can we expect more of this from EDF-controlled BGE?
Challenges, a French business magazine, suggested that the country’s electricity producers, including Électricité de France, which is 85 percent owned by the government, wielded too much influence over regulators.
The decision has provoked a firestorm in France where it has been denounced as a “tax on efficiency.”
Maryland’s Public Service Commission should request a clarification of this matter from BGE. Maryland expects substantial benefits from BGE’s demand-side management programs. Will EDF undermine BGE’s efforts?