France votes to cut nuclear reliance

Members of the French Parliament voted on Friday to reduce the share of nuclear power in the country’s electricity generation from 75% to 50% by 2025.

This is the first bill of a series of legislative actions dubbed the energy transition and promised by French President Francois Hollande in his 2012 election manifesto.

The bill voted on Friday also includes a goal to increase the share of renewable energies in the country’s electricity generation to 23% by 2020 and 32% by 2030.

Moreover, French MPs decided to reduce the country’s 2012 levels of energy consumption by 20% by 2030 and halve it by the year 2050.

French lawmakers also voted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to the 1990 level in 2030 and by 75% in 2050.

The French Parliament decisions on Friday are impressive and will strongly alter the country’s energy mix and economy. France has also moved ahead of the European Union (EU) leaders summit in Brussels on October 23-24, where targets to reduce the bloc’s energy consumption are also set to be discussed.

France’s political opposition, though, argues that Hollande’s pledge to reduce the portion of the country’s electricity produced by nuclear power is a compromise to the country’s green party in return for their support of his government. French MPs opposed to the government also questioned the effect of such a decision on electricity prices. Ségolène Royal, minister for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, insisted the new laws will in fact bring the electricity prices down since the priority of the energy transition bill is to save energy.

Greenpeace France welcomed the news, adding that today "nuclear power is a sunset industry facing increasing development of renewable sectors." The environmental group added that with France’s past commitment to nuclear, the country had been sailing against the tide and depriving its economy of many renewable energy opportunities. That could now be changing.

While Germany, for instance, achieved a €13 billion turnover in 2013 from exports in solar and wind technologies, France, for its part, merely achieved a €5.6 billion turnover for nuclear, Greenpeace France said. There is an international wave in favor of renewable technologies, the group added, and France should ride it, not miss it.

In March, the French government had to scale up security of its nuclear plants after dozens of Greenpeace activists had stormed the country’s Fessenheim nuclear plant, which the group justified as an action aiming "to denounce the risk of French nuclear power for the whole of Europe."

According to the latest official data published by the country’s General Commission for Sustainable Development, France has now surpassed 5 GW of installed solar PV, of which 386 MW were installed in the first half of 2014.