Jean-Bernard Lévy, the chairman and chief executive of Électricité de France, the French state-backed electricity giant, plans to step down before his term is up next year, the company said on Thursday.
The French government said the previous day that it would renationalize EDF, as the company is known, to give it more control to fix problems plaguing its nuclear power program and shield consumers from soaring energy prices. The French finance ministry also confirmed Mr. Lévy’s departure, which will take place as soon as a successor is appointed.
The state currently owns 84 percent of EDF’s capital. Élisabeth Borne, the French prime minister, told lawmakers in Parliament on Wednesday that acquiring 100 percent of the company was needed to ensure France’s energy independence.
EDF is France’s main electricity producer and operates all of its nuclear plants, which generate about 70 percent of the country’s electricity, a bigger share than any other country in the world. But nuclear power output has tumbled to its lowest level in 30 years, as many reactors — mostly built in the 1980s — stand idle for repairs, the result of a lack of investment at the company, which is 43 billion euros (about $44 billion) in debt.
The price of natural gas, which France uses to make up for fluctuations in nuclear-powered energy, has surged, as Russia has restricted supplies and the European Union has imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to the war in Ukraine. Being forced to buy electricity at high prices on the open market infuriated Mr. Lévy, who appealed to the government and received a €2 billion lifeline in February.
That was hardly enough to resolve EDF’s woes, and the government has concluded that taking full control of the company would enable it “to strengthen its capacity to carry out ambitious projects that are essential for our energy future as quickly as possible,” Ms. Borne said.