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French Electricity Tariffs

Which is the cheapest?
EDF - French ElectricityHave you come across the French Tempo system of electricity Tariff? With different colour days and six different charging rates it sounds very complicated. The important question is – is it any cheaper and could I save money by switching over to Tempo? This article looks at the different tariffs and compares them for a typical household.

In France, there are basically three options for buying your electricity:
  • Flat Rate
  • Reduced Rate Off Peak
  • Tempo

The price per kWh varies depending on the capacity of your supply. A typical domestic installation would be 9kW with a 45 amp main circuit breaker.

The flat rate charging system is self explanatory and carries a slightly lower standing charge. The reduced rate off peak arrangement is similar to the UK Economy 7 and is normally fixed at between 10pm and 6am. The standing charge is slightly higher but you benefit from an off peak rate that is reduced by about 40%.


This system works by offering varying prices per kWh based upon the actual weather on particular days. The year is split up into 300 blue days when the price is advantageous; every Sunday is a blue day. Then there are 43 white days when the price is increased, this occasionally occurs on a Saturday but very rarely. And then the most expensive days are termed red days and there are 22 of these in a year.

The red days are kept for between November 1 and March 31 and occur between Monday and Friday, never at a weekend or on public holidays. The system is designed to encourage people to think about when they use dishwashers, dryers and other electrical equipment.

Each day it is decided what colour the following day is to be and this is either sent to the control box on the wall in your house, which will have a light on it telling you. Alternatively, you can visit the EDF website to see what colour the next day is going to be and you can even elect to receive a daily email which includes (non contractual) predictions for the following two days.

In addition to the three colour bands, the Tempo system also has the Off-Peak tariff as well, giving total of six possible charging rates.

How do the Rates Compare?

The standing charge is once again slightly higher with the Tempo tariff. The price on a white day is broadly similar to the charges for standard and off peak rates. The good news is that the tariff for blue days which cover 82% of the year are about half that of the standard rate. The bad news is that on red days the tariff is about five times higher than the standard rate!

If you can avoid using electricity on red days you should be onto a winner – but bear in mind that these are usually the coldest days of the year and can extend for up to five days – last week was a case in point.

A Real Life Example

We have been running for over a year with the Tempo system, which gives us some actual figures to look back on and compare what the cost of electricity would have been under the different tariffs.

There are two adults and two children in the house and the main electricity consumers are: hot water heater, dish washer, ceramic hob, electric oven, washing machine and tumble dryer(!) – apart from the lights that the children tend to leave on. The house is heating by a wood burning stove and oil fired central heating. On white days, we try to avoid washing and drying clothes. On red days, we additionally switch over the oil fired boiler to heat the water instead of using electricity. We also cook as far as possible using the wood burner. Surprisingly there are no volunteers for manually washing dishes!

This table shows how many kWh were used under each tariff (I have added together the peak and off peak figures)

  kWh % useage Days %time
Blue 13,905 89 300 82
White 1,204 8 43 12
Red 473 3 22 6
Total 15,582      

This table shows that instead of using electricity at the same rate across the different bands, we have been able to adjust our consumption on red and white days. In round figures, our consumption on a white day has been reduced by one third and on a red day our consumption was half as much as normal - so it can be done.

Despite keeping our consumption on red days to a minimum such that it accounted for only 3% of our useage, it still accounted for 20% of the annual bill!

If we had been using the flat rate system throughout the year, our annual bill would have been 30% higher - so it does make sense to Tempo.

Visit the EDF website for more information.

©Colin Lawrence 2005

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