Environmentalist and solar advocate Nicolas Hulot is France’s new energy minister

Nicolas Hulot has been named new France’s new energy and environment minister in the cabinet led by the new prime minister Edouard Philippe. Hulot’s ministry, which under the previous government was named Ministry of Energy, Ecology and Sustainable Development (MEEM), has been renamed into Ministry of the Ecological and Solidarity-based Transition.

Hulot, who was a candidate in the primary of the Green Party (Europe Écologie-Les Verts) to the 2012 French presidential election, is a famous journalist and environmentalist that became popular thanks to its documentary tv show “Ushuaïa Nature, whose slogan is “wonder is the first step towards respect.” He is also the president of the Fondation Nicolas-Hulot, an environmental organization created by him in 1990.

The new minister has always been a supporter of solar energy in the French political debate. In 2011, after the French government introduced a moratorium on solar projects which paralyzed the sector for several years, Hulot’s foundation released a study containing a series of proposals on how to further develop PV, and on how to involve all of the country’s interested parties, including government, media, enterprises and associations, in the transition to a clean energy economy.

In a more recent study published in 2015, Hulot’s foundation said that solar must be deployed “at human scale” everywhere in the world, and that it must be adopted especially in countries with low access to electricity. As for PV in France, the foundation said that the country has the potential to install a further 20 GW and 25 GW in addition to the 5.8 GW installed at the time. This, the reports stressed, can occur without putting pressure on the national grid. If achieved, the target proposed by Hulot’s foundation would enable the country to raise the share of solar in the country power mix from 1% to 8%.

As for the outgoing energy minister, Ségolène Royal, it must be acknowledged that she performed an extraordinary job for the solar sector. Immediately after her appointment, she started several initiatives aimed at restoring investor confidence, a clear and stable regulatory framework, and a reasonable level of incentives. Under her mandate, solar saw its target by 2023 being tripled to 20.2 GW. Royal’s energy strategy also decided that nuclears share of the French energy mix should fall to 50% by 2025.