“Companies are considering the closure of certain lines and entities from 2022”, affirms Olivier de Wasseige

If the record rise in energy prices hits Belgian households head-on, businesses are not left out. The exceptional increase in their energy bill is putting their turnover at risk and putting their competitiveness in difficulty.

PM Sweet is a young company from Liège specializing in the manufacture of macaroons. Each year, the company, which employs 250 people, delivers millions of macaroons around the world, from its workshops in Oupeye. Business is going well, but the gas and electricity costs are starting to seriously worry Michaël Labro, the boss: “For now our costs are still fixed and our solar panels are helping. But when our contract is renewed, it will be complicated“.

Since the start of the Covid crisis, Michaël Labro, like many entrepreneurs, has experienced an explosion in the prices of raw materials, not to mention the costs of transporting goods and the indexation of wages. “This surge of energy is one more drop“.

Our competitiveness is at stake

Does he plan to increase his prices? “I work in mass distribution, I cannot increase my prices with a snap of my fingers. I risk being replaced by a competitor so quickly. But I have no choice. Faced with all these factors, I have to increase my prices by 5%“. Having said that, he completes:”Our margins will be hit very hard, our competitiveness is at stake“.

Competitive, it must indeed remain that. Profitable, above all. What drove the beginning of September lhe German chemical group BASF to reduce ammonia production at its plant in Antwerp due to high natural gas prices in Europe. The boss of the Union Wallonne des Entreprises (UWE), Olivier de Wasseige, is very worried: “Companies tell me that they are considering closing certain lines and entities in 2022“.

Never seen prices

And the situation is not unique to little Belgium. At Nyrstar, the only zinc manufacturer in France, in Auby (north), the surge in prices caused the temporary closure of all production. “Lately, prices have skyrocketed to levels I’ve never seen in my career.“, testifies Eric Brassart, CEO of Nyrstar France.

From 40 euros a few years ago, the average price of MWh over a day exceeded 400 euros before Christmas, with hourly peaks of more than 600 euros.

Nyrstar then decides to stop production for two months, from the beginning of January. Corn “between Christmas and New Year, it was mild, with wind and a lot of wind production in France and Germany“, adds Xavier Constant. Prices have calmed down. They are currently flirting with 230 euros.

The European Union must act

Faced with this situation, UWE urges the European Union to find a stable and lasting solution concerning the supply of gas in Europe. He calls on the federal government to bring our energy prices closer to international prices: “Our companies must be competitive, or customers will go to other countries, other continents“Finally, he reminds that Walloon companies pay 15% more for their energy than Flanders and the neighboring countries.

How long should this situation last? The Electricity and Gas Regulatory Commission (Creg) speaks of 2024, or even 2025.

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