Macron delays reduction of nuclear share by a decade, but announces 45 GW solar target by 2030

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“I was not elected on a nuclear exit program, but on a reduction of the nuclear share to 50% of our energy mix.” With this statement, made during the presentation of France’s new energy strategy, the “Programmation pluriannuelle de l’énergie” (PPE), French president Emmanuel Macron explained that the target will be reached with the closing of 14 nuclear reactors by 2035 and not by 2025, as was originally set out in the country’s 2015 energy transition policy.

He added that up to six nuclear power plants may be closed by 2030 (including the closure of the Fessenheim plant in 2020), while the remaining reactors will be shut down by 2035. This timeframe may be reconsidered, Macron said, if storage technologies reach maturity, thus enabling the better integration of intermittent renewables and if European integration becomes stronger.

The latest nuclear power scenario shared by Macron is similar to the mid-scenario unveiled by French news agency AFP a week earlier. This means that the worst case scenario, which includes the construction of four new nuclear plants, has been avoided. However, the favorite option of the French renewable energy industry, which envisages the closure of six nuclear power plants by 2028 and the decomissioning of another six by 2035, has also not been approved.

As for building new nuclear reactors, Macron said he asked state-owned power utility EDF, which owns and operates all of France’s 58 nuclear power plants, to define a “new nuclear” program, including price commitments to make nuclear power more competitive. “Everything must be ready in 2021 so that the choice proposed to the French can be transparent,” he said.

Arnaud Gosseement, a well-known lawyer specializing in environmental legislation, said on Twitter that the importance of today’s announcements is relative, as they only provide broad guidelines of a draft energy strategy.The road is still long before a decree: a new law will have to be passed by Parliament,” he stated.

Solar plans

Macron also said that all of the country’s coal power plants will be closed by 2022, and that solar and wind will see their respective share increase fivefold and threefold, without providing further details.

“The scenario proposed by President Macron is quite balanced given the actual social context in France,” Xavier Daval, Chair of SER-Soler, the solar commission of French renewable energy association SER told pv magazine.

“Solar is granted a significant target of 45 GW by 2030. The charge is ours to prove that we can deliver the proposed volume,” he stressed. “I also expect that storage will soon come on board to complete our offering and allow to deliver a sound substitution to conventional energies,” he added.

Considering that France currently has an installed solar capacity of around 8.5 GW, and that another 36.5 GW should now be deployed in France over the next 12 years, it is likely that EDF and Total, which are planning to deploy 30 GW and 10 GW of solar in France by 2030, respectively,  may now revise their plans.