‘France at risk of energy isolationism’


French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche on Sunday published the draft of France’s new energy strategy, the “Programmation pluriannuelle de l’énergie” (PPE) which envisages a further commitment to nuclear power by revising the previous government's pledge to cut nuclear generation from around 75% today to 50% by 2025.

According to the leaked roadmap – yet to be approved by parliament – the government intends to maintain the current share of nuclear for another 10 years. In the document, the French government says it is planning to build reactors to generate power for between €60 and €70 per MWh from 2021 to 2025.

Xavier Daval, Chair of SER-SOLER, the solar commission of French renewable energy association SER, told pv magazine the leaked plans may compromise the country’s chances of investing in the future, and participating in the strong momentum of green growth the planet expects.

“Today, France is the only country in the world with such a high share of nuclear power,” Mr. Daval said. “If the French government will maintain the status quo for another decade, our country will be at risk of energy isolationism, while remaining prisoner of an energy system that the world does not envy.”

Next generation would have to solve nuclear problem

Mr. Daval accepted nuclear power has been a large source of jobs in France for decades and has delivered the cheapest electricity in Europe, but said he believes it is now becoming commercially unviable, as the market for the technology dwindles to “safe” countries, in the face of rising public opposition around the world.

A further commitment to nuclear, Mr. Daval said, would mean diverting resources away from the energy transition. “Without open space in the domestic electricity mix, renewable energy players will have no more perspective, and will either have to reposition themselves outside France or disappear,” he said. “It would be absurd if France could exclude itself from the game. This exception would cost us not only economically, but also politically, at a time when Europe is slow, and prone to many tensions.”

Mr. Daval also believes France may miss the chance of positioning itself as a leading country in the growing global renewable energy market.

“By postponing this reduction [in nuclear generation], we are breaking the momentum of the energy transition to return to a ‘controlled’ deployment of renewables in France without any real prospects,” he added, “and we push further … the problem of dismounting nuclear plants to the next generations.”

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Will EDF and Total row back on green commitments?

Rumors the French government was considering the postponement of a reactor phase-out spread after previous environment and energy minister Nicolas Hulot resigned live on air during a radio show in late August. At the time, the former TV star said: “I don’t want my presence in this government to be taken to mean that we are doing enough to tackle this challenge.

“On a challenge this serious, I find myself resigned to it every day, adapting to it a little more each day, even though the global situation with a planet that’s becoming a sauna requires us to change our scale, change our scope, change our thinking.”

If plans for more nuclear power plants are confirmed, the first victim may be the ambitious solar plan of state-owned utility EDF, which announced in December a 30 GW scheme to replace the eventual loss of nuclear capacity, and the environmental plans of oil giant Total, which revealed in June an intent to deploy 10 GW of solar capacity.

The existing PPE plan, initiated by former minister Ségolène Royal, is targeting 10.2 GW of solar this year, and 20 GW by 2023.



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