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La Puissance de Compteur Explained: how choosing the right power rating can help you save on electricity bills in France

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  • Summary
  • In France you can choose the power rating for your meter (puissance de compteur)
  • The puissance de compteur a refers to how much power your meter can draw at any given moment (in kW or kVA)
  • It is important to choose the right puissance for your needs as electricity rates (especially the prix de l'abonnement) change depending on the limit assigned to your meter

What is the puissance de compteur?

power circuit

Just like how many electrical appliances come with a power rating that specifies the maximum amount of electricity they can draw, electrical meters also can be defined by their capacity. The puissance de compteur refers to the maximum quantity of power that can be drawn by a meter at any given moment. This limit is what causes a meter to "trip" when too many electrical devices are being used simultaneously, as demand has exceeded the meter's capacity to draw power.

In France the puissance de compteur (meter's power capacity or power rating) is most commonly measured in kVA, though sometimes it may be measured in kW.

What is the difference between kW and kWh? A kilowatt (kW) is a measure of power. Power is the rate at which energy is converted from one form to another; it measures how quickly energy is being used. A kilowatt therefore refers to the rate at which electrical energy can be used or generated.
A kilowatt hour (kWh) is a measure of energy, like the Joule, a calorie, or British Thermal Unit (BTU). A kWh measures the amount of energy equivalent to using one kilowatt over one hour.
A kilovolt-ampere (kVA) is also a measure of power (like the kW), but whereas kW measures real power, kVA measures apparent power (or real power plus re-active power)

Residential electricity consumers in France can choose between a puissance de compteur (meter power capacity) of 3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 24, 30, or 36 kVA, but the majority of French households have 6 kVA capacity installed (about 70%).

The puissance souscrite and the puissance de raccordement

Get your pen and paper ready - things are about to get technical! There are actually two different types of "puissance de compteur": the physical limit of power that a meter can draw (the puissance de raccordement), and the limit set in your electricity plan (puissance souscrite). And yes, these can be two different values! In fact, the puissance souscrite must always be less than the puissance de raccordement. Increasing the physical power capacity of a meter (puissance de raccordement) would require the installation of new electrical equipment and/or possibly a new meter.

Why is the puissance de compteur important?

electrical plugs

There are two main reasons why its a good idea to take a moment to think about the meter power capacity installed in your home in France, the first being to confirm that you will have access to enough power to meet your needs. Ensuring that your meter's power capacity meets your needs will allow you to avoid the annoyance of having to deal with the power tripping. The majority of French households have meters set to 6 kVA, but your needs may be more or less depending on your profile:

What Power Rating Should I Choose?
Puissance de compteur Consumer Profile
3 kVA Small power consumers with non-electric heating: single-occupant/student apartments, generally 25 m2 or less.
6 kVA 80 m2 or smaller home that uses electric heating, or larger home (including houses) with non-electric heating; the majority of homes in France
9 kVA A home that is larger than 80 m2 and uses electric heating, or a larger home with many occupants/electrical devices
12 kVA and higher Large homes/buildings (200 m2 and larger) with multiple occupants; larger homes with a pool

The second reason why it's a good idea to take a look at the power capacity set for your home is a question of money. In France, the price you pay for your fixed electricity costs (the prix de l'abonnement) varies depending on the puissance de compteur, with smaller meter capacities (3 kVA) being cheaper and larger kVA being more expensive. Subscribing to a smaller meter power capacity can be one way of lowering your electricity bills. In fact, the difference in the cost of the total annual fixed electricity cost (the subscription charge, or prix de l'abonnement) can be as much as 600€ between a 3 kVA meter and a 36 kVA meter.

What's more, energy suppliers structure their electricity prices differently, with some offering considerable discounts on fixed charges (and higher per kWh rates) and others offering low per kWh rates but higher subscription charges. Meters that are capable of differentiating peak and off-peak power consumption (heures pleines et heures creuses) often incur higher subscription charges. Knowing what power capacity is assigned to your home is therefore an important element in deciding the best electricity plan and supplier for your needs.

How to Find My Meter's Power Capacity?

You can find out what puissance de compteur your meter has by looking for a section on your electricity bill that says something along the lines of caractéristiques de votre tarif. There you will find puissance #kW or puissance #kVA (whether it's marked kW or kVA, they correspond to the same thing). Note that this refers to the power capacity you have signed up for (puissance souscrite).

You may also be able to find the power rating on your meter if it is a new one (white, digital): simply push the blue button to find different screens, one of which displays the meter's power rating. While older electromechanic meters don't display the power rating, you can estimate your power rating based on the meter's amperage:

Meter Power Rating 3 kVA 6 kVA 9 kVA 12 kVA
Intensity (A) 15 30 45 60

How do I Change My Meter's Power Capacity?

changing the meter power capacity requires an EDF technician's intervention

Changing the puissance de compteur requires a technician from Enedis (formerly ERDF). However, you do not need to contact Enedis directly to have your meter's power capacity changed; simply call your energy supplier and they will arrange for the change for you. The price to change your meter's power capacity can vary from 29.81€ (taxes included) for a simple change in the puissance souscrite, to 464.04€ if a new meter needs to be installed. A simple change generally takes about 10 business days, but more complicated changes (new meter equipment installation) may take longer.

Which Supplier Should I Choose Based on My Meter?

Planete Oui's 100% Renewable Energy Offer
Supplier Subscription Charge (before tax) Per kWh Rate (before tax) Notes Find Out More
planete-oui-logo Up to  % discount on the pre-tax EDF prix de l'abonnement Same as EDF regulated tariffs Sans engagement (no penalty to switch)
100% green electricity
09 87 67 37 93
Free callback

While most suppliers focus on the per kWh rate, Planete Oui is the only supplier in France to offer a discount on the prix de l'abonnement which can be as much as 20% less than the pre-tax EDF amount. We recommend this offer for small power consumers, for whom annual subscription charges make up a relatively larger proportion of their bill.

Larger power consumers (6 kVA or more) are better off with a plan like what is offered by Direct Energie, which features the same prix de l'abonnement as EDF's regulated rate, but offers a % discount on the pre-tax EDF regulated tariffs rate.

Direct Energie's Electricity Offer
Supplier Subscription Charge (before tax) Per kWh Rate (before tax) Notes Find Out More
direct energie logo Same as EDF regulated prix de l'abonnement % % discount on the pre-tax EDF regulated tariffs Sans engagement (no penalty to switch) 09 87 67 37 93
Free callback

For more information about electricity offers available in France, don't hesitate to call our English-speaking customer service at 09 87 67 37 93, ask for a free callback or check out our free energy comparison service (in French).