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Reaching 40 percent renewable electricity generation in France by 2030: How to combine boosting the economy and environmental sustainability

Author:

Louis Métais

London School of Economics and Political Science, GB; Sciences Po, FR
About Louis

Master of Public Administration Dual Degree, Class of 2017

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Abstract

Nuclear sources currently account for 72.3 percent of French electricity generation (RTE, 2017). In spite of its low carbon emissions and moderate production costs, nuclear energy has been increasingly called into question. Nuclear technology implies high environmental risks and important investments are necessary to maintain the current nuclear fleet operational in the coming decades. In turn, renewable technologies are increasingly competitive and considered an important source of employment. Yet they only represent 19.1 percent of electricity production (RTE, 2017).

On the 17 August 2015, the French Parliament adopted the loi relative à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte [law on energy transition for green growth] to set out a new policy agenda. A shift from nuclear to renewable sources was initiated. It consists of:

  • a reduction of electricity generation from nuclear sources to 50 percent of the overall production by 2025; and
  • an increase of electricity generation from renewable sources to 40 percent of the overall production by 2030.

In November 2017, the newly appointed government said that reducing the share of electricity generation from nuclear sources to 50 percent by 2025 would be unachievable without significant consequences for carbon emissions. Even though the loi relative à la transition énergétique pour la croissance verte was not amended yet, the 50 percent nuclear power goal might be postponed to 2035, it was suggested.

The aim of this paper is to evaluate various policy options and to provide some recommendations for reaching these targets while combining environmental sustainability and economic growth. Hence, the paper focuses on a broad selection of 13 types of renewable energy technologies which could help France in achieving its energy transition:

  • 5 hydropower technologies: run-of river (ROR), lakes, pumped storage power plants (PSP), tidal power and wave power;
  • 3 wind power technologies: onshore, offshore and floating offshore;
  • 3 biomass technologies: solid biomass burning (SBB), anaerobic digestion (biogas) and waste burning; and
  • 2 solar power technologies: traditional solar and concentrated solar power (CSP).

To evaluate these 13 types of technologies, three different criteria are utilised: efficiency, appropriateness and cost. Key findings regarding each technology are listed below.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Policy recommendations were formulated in four main dimensions to help the French Government in making the energy transition a success:

  1. maintain an equilibrium between intermittent and non-intermittent sources, as too large a share of intermittent sources could lead to power failures and an expensive upgrade of the national grid;
  2. implement a transition consistent across regions, since some energy sources are unequally distributed;
  3. strengthen public funding during the investment phase, as technologies using renewable sources usually imply high investment costs, while maintenance and operation costs are lower than those implied for other technologies; and
  4. develop a market of Tradable Green Certificates (TGC) to generate incentives for producers to follow national production objectives.
How to Cite: Métais, L., 2019. Reaching 40 percent renewable electricity generation in France by 2030: How to combine boosting the economy and environmental sustainability. The Public Sphere: Journal of Public Policy, 7(1), pp.181–230.
Published on 01 Jan 2019.
Peer Reviewed

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