In July this year the industrial market in all countries belonging to the European Union will be liberalised. At present only 37% of this market is open to competition, but the addition of new power suppliers, and the switching between suppliers, is already evident. French energy regulator Commission de Regulation de l'Energie (CRE) has confirmed that 17 suppliers are selling power to industrial customers directly, and adds that over 50 firms are involved in some way in the French market.

This has had an impact on state-owned utility Electricité de France (EdF) which has seen some 25% of those industrial clients who are able to take advantage of competition switch to a different supplier. Utilities with access to French power stations are having the most success, with Spain's Endesa Energia and Belgium's Electrabel particularly well placed.

The French government continues to set EdF's tariffs, however, which the competition believes is inimical to a free market situation. There has been a suggestion that these tariffs could soon be lowered, thus undercutting other suppliers in the country and making the idea of switching much less attractive.