Louis Madaule, president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Aude, and David Benzerien Artes, head of the industry division, talk about the impact of price increases, the support of the CCI. And the unavoidable effects that the energy crisis will have on the economic activity of the department.
Thursday, November 10, it is a webinar organized by the CCI Occitanie and the regional chamber of trades and crafts Occitanie that the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Aude offered to its nationals. With an unavoidable question: “VSEs/SMEs, how to act in the face of energy challenges?” An example of the investment of the consular organization on the subject, for several months. A commitment claimed by the president of the CCI, Louis Madaule, and David Benzerien Artes, head of the industry division.
How can the Aude CCI support, help and guide companies faced with the energy issue?
Louis Madaule: We have been organized since the first upward trends in energy prices appeared. We first decided to set up, with David Benzerien Artes, a single point of contact to map and identify the difficulties of business leaders. This is first of all what I want to remind you: companies must not hesitate to contact the CCI. We are here to support business leaders who find themselves a bit alone: in the regional quarterly economic barometer of the CCI Occitanie, to which 1,623 companies responded, only 19% of business leaders believe they have the necessary information.
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If we do not have the answer to everything, we will make efforts to guide them. This is what we did when the 1er State support system was put in place on July 4, with aid for companies whose bill exceeded 3% of turnover, and the payment of 30 to 70% of the increase, in being in contact with the Public Finance Department; this is also what we do by directing them towards the Regional Energy and Climate Agency (AREC), a structure in the Region which can support industry and the service sector on the issue of energy efficiency; without forgetting the energy diagnosis offered by Ademe, with financing from BPI France, for which we are also a gateway.
Do these energy efficiency subjects seem to you to be integrated by Aude companies?
Louis Madaule: Energy sobriety, we haven’t stopped talking about it for a few months. But whether it’s LED lighting, automatic controls for regulating heating, double glazing, automatic switching on and off of lighting, these are things that companies have already committed to. They are making and have already made efforts to control the energy item.
David Benzerien Artes: On the pre-diagnostics that have been carried out, we see that on the side of insulation and lighting, efforts have been made. But if we want to go further, if companies are aiming for more substantial reductions in consumption, in particular with photovoltaic panel equipment, we are moving towards more substantial investments. And therefore more difficult.
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Have you received many reports or requests today from companies in real difficulty with energy bills?
Louis Madaule: It must first be understood that these subjects of price increases occur at the end of the Covid period. For some companies, this coincides with the time of repayment of state-guaranteed loans (PGE), which for some amounted to 25% of turnover. However, some companies have not yet returned to their pre-Covid level of activity. If we add to this inflation on raw materials and recruitment difficulties which also explain why they are unable to return to their initial activity, the question of energy further complicates the situation.
David Benzerien-Artes: Some are covered by contracts signed in early 2022, for three years. These companies are therefore theoretically protected. But at the end of the year, for the others, we are entering periods of renegotiation of contracts with suppliers. What we know is that the biggest Aude companies are affected, on new contracts, by increases of 300 to 500% in the price of energy.
Louis Madaule: At the end of October, the government announced new devices, in particular for VSEs which were not previously protected by the tariff shield because they had a meter with a power greater than 36 kVA. This shield will be triggered from €325 per MWh (with flat-rate aid on 25% of consumption, to compensate for the difference between this floor price and a ceiling price of €800, Editor’s note): it is already nearly four times more than the price per MWh as negotiated on previous contracts (between 85 and 100 MWh). The measurements are there, and that’s good. But these companies will face significant increases anyway. And all this, we will inevitably find it with an impact on production and selling prices. I come back to the CCI barometer, which raised the question of the impact of adapting to the energy crisis: 48% of the 1,623 business leaders believe that this will trigger a rise in selling prices; 30% that this will cause problems with working hours; 22% that it will cause a loss of competitiveness; and finally 17% plan to close at certain times. Yes, this crisis will have an impact on our economy. This is an additional difficulty that the economic world will be forced to face this winter.
Which sectors are most affected by this phenomenon?
David Benzerien Artes: Aude has a majority of companies with fewer than 10 employees, protected by the shield. But beyond 36 kVA of power, we are essentially talking about industrial activity. But between 36 and 250 kVA, these are companies in the food industry, metal construction, printing works, tile works, the construction of special machines. Without forgetting the wholesale trade and the logistics sites, where everything is automated.
Louis Madaule: There are these issues of energy costs. The industrial production sector is asking itself a lot of questions, particularly around the management of human resources: they are only at the thinking stage, but many companies have studied, for those who can, the opportunity to modify the organization of work, focusing on night hours. This would lower the energy bill, but there would still be a shortfall in production. But today, the concern of industrial companies in Aude is load shedding. There is a fear of cuts which could cost them dearly.