The factory management had no other choice.

She had to cut production.

Some of the smelting in Dunkerque has now been idle for weeks.

The reason is the price shock on the electricity exchange.

Like many other industrial plants, it hit Europe's largest aluminum smelter hard.

Klaus Max Smolka

Editor in Business.

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Niklas Zaboji

Economic correspondent in Paris

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The plants in Dunkirk have been gradually shut down since November, and more than a seventh of production is now lost. That sounds bearable, but it is already leading to losses in the tens of millions. Especially since a quick recovery is not really in sight. "We could start up again at the beginning of April," says Managing Director Guillaume de Goÿs. The situation is serious.

So serious that France's Industry Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher made her way to the Channel coast on Friday. As one of the last two remaining aluminum smelters in the country, she paid a visit to Dunkerque, spoke to the workforce and signaled readiness for action to representatives of the press. The minister emphasized that the government was not content with warm words: the reduction in the electricity tax had been decided, as had the expansion of the special instrument "Arenh" - to the delight of the industry, which this instrument enables to obtain cheap nuclear power, and to the chagrin of the state-owned energy company EDF, because he now has to buy electricity wholesale at high prices.

Pannier-Runacher emphasizes that without the help from Paris, the aluminum smelter in Dunkerque would have faced additional costs of 300 million euros.

The approximately 630 jobs in the plant were at risk.

"The government has accepted its responsibility," said the minister, calling the situation at the aluminum plant in Dunkerque "emblematic".

After all, hundreds of companies in the country groaned under the high energy prices.

This is poison for the industry

Pannier-Runacher said it was justified to use EDF to stabilize electricity prices.

She signaled support for the heavily indebted state-owned company.

The state, which holds around 85 percent of the shares, will stand by its side "to ensure that EDF survives this time".

Previously, there had been great resentment from management and employees that the government had ordered 120 instead of 100 terawatt hours of electricity to be sold this year via the Arenh instrument. That's as EDF is currently suffering from the simultaneous failure of several nuclear reactors, more than a third of the amount of electricity produced in 2022. The costs amount to around 8 billion euros.

France's aluminum industry, however, considers the market intervention to be vital.

While a megawatt hour of electricity wholesales currently costs 100, 150 and sometimes more than 200 euros, Arenh allows you to purchase it for less than 50 euros.

"Electricity is an essential raw material for us," said de Goÿs of Aluminum Dunkerque.

He's hoping for a rethink.

Because in the hut on the Channel coast, one likes to think back to times when one did not have to worry about the supply of cheap electricity.