If the war in Ukraine has not had an impact so far on SNCF traffic, it could well have some on its results. The railway group is in fact the leading consumer of industrial electricity in France and therefore finds itself confronted with rising energy costs. Its subsidiary SNCF Voyageurs, in charge of passenger transport, alone represents 10% of industrial consumption in France, i.e. between 1 and 2% of total French consumption.
According to Christophe Fanichet, CEO of SNCF Voyageurs, the consumption planned for the year 2022 is covered at 95% with a policy of purchasing two to three years in advance. But the impact could be felt on the remaining 5%, with a spot purchase which should “cost a few tens of millions of euros”.
The bill could swell much more significantly in 2023, with coverage of around 75 to 80%. The additional cost could then go from a few tens to a few hundred million euros given current energy prices. A review of the buying strategy is therefore now being considered to determine the best time to complete the 2023 hedge. The question should be decided in the second half of this year.
No increase in ticket prices
The boss of SNCF Voyageurs said that this inflation in energy costs would have no impact on the price of long-distance tickets this year. And he indicated that several programs were now at work to reduce consumption without having to reduce the speed of the trains.
In 2021, the energy consumption of the whole group represented 16.4 terawatt-hours (TWh), compared to 17.9 TWh before the crisis. Of this total, electricity represents approximately 9 TWh, mainly intended for rail traction. This gives an annual electricity bill of around one billion euros for the SNCF, one of its main external expenditure items.
3.5 TWh for TGVs alone
Of this total, SNCF Voyageurs uses 7 TWh of electricity to pull its various trains. The TGVs are the biggest consumers with half the volume, while TER and Transilien represent a quarter each. Electricity thus contributes up to 87% of the energy used by SNCF Voyageurs for its rolling stock, the remaining 13% coming from diesel which supplies part of the TER trains.
Christophe Fanichet also recalled the commitment of the SNCF to get out of diesel by 2035, with new battery and hydrogen trains or the use of sustainable fuels.