In the 1970s and 80s, the government of France decided to build thirty-four 900 MWe nuclear reactors while the rest of the world was recuperating from two oil crises. The success of these nuclear programs and their subsequent additions removed France from a constant reliance on fossil fuels. As a result, as of 2000, France's nuclear energy represented 75% of its electricity production, meeting national and export needs.
With the advent and continual presence of renewable energy sources, however, the dominance of nuclear energy may be on its way to a slow decline. Renewable resources are the fastest-growing electricity generation source increasing by 2.9% per year.
In France, the electricity-generating mix comprises five essential sources: coal, natural gas, petroleum and other liquid fuels, nuclear power and renewable sources. Hydropower is the predominant renewable source leading the global trend, and as of 2020, it accounted for 10.84% of France's total final electricity consumption.
The growth of renewable energy (RE) in France hasn't been a smooth ride. In 2020, France, with only 19% of its energy generated from renewables, was the only EU country to not fulfil the EU RE directives of 20% by 2020. However, this is by no means a way of dismissing the country's growth over the past decade.
Renewable Energy in France: How Far They've Come
Hydropower has been dominating the French RE market for a long time. Despite this fact, it's the only RE source that hasn't seen much growth in the past ten years. In 2011, France generated 8.06% of its electricity from hydropower. However, it recorded only a 2.78% growth in its hydroelectric generation in ten years.
The other renewables, however, each registered significant growth over the course of this same period. As of 2021, the wind was second to hydropower in renewable electricity generation at 6.68%, having leapt from 2.18% in 2011. Next to wind energy was solar energy, which grew from 0.41% in 2011 to 2.67% in 2021. The other renewables, such as biomass and incinerated waste, when accumulated, boasted of a 0.78% growth over the same study period.
Not only has France recorded a noticeable change in the deployment of renewables for electricity generation over the past decade. As a result, France can also boast of reducing its carbon emissions per unit of energy consumed. The French, in 2010, cumulatively released 0.13kg of carbon per kWh of energy. In 2020, this figure was discovered to have reduced to 0.11kg of carbon per kWh of energy.
Source: Our World in Data
Furthermore, the French transport sector emits the most carbon. While this still holds, its validity is weakening, owing to the rapid growth of electric vehicles (EVs) in France. EVs multiplied by over 2000% between 2011 and 2021
Renewable Energy Policies In France
Since the days of heavy dependence on nuclear power, France, the second-largest economy in the European Union, has been focused on a certain form of self-reliance and development. As a result, the government has now decided to cut down the usage of nuclear reactors and fill those gaps with renewable energy sources, ensuring a sustainable energy transition for all.
The development of renewable energy was extensively promoted via public support until recently. However, with the government's involvement on a larger scale, production costs are expected to fall further, facilitating lower costs for renewable energy generation.
President Emmanuel Macron plans to fall in line with the Paris Agreement, Energy Transition for Green Growth and biodiversity laws.
Here are the objectives of EN MARCHE (The Environmental Program):
- Significant reduction of fossil fuels through the closure of coal-based plants in 5 years, ban on shale gas explorations and integration of ecological cost in the price of carbon by a carbon tax increase of up to €100/tCO2 in 2030
- Acceleration of changes towards carbon-free energy production by financing renewable energy, favouring private investments, focusing on research and development and implementing the energy transition law with the objective of 32% RES in 2030
- Introducing a new economic model of recycling
- Supporting the transitions through job creation and protection of biodiversity
The Energy Transition Law (ETL) has its policies entrenched in increasing the use of renewable energy through
- Creating means to possibly allow citizens and local authorities to receive funding for renewable energy projects
- Introduce the widespread use of single permits for wind energy, biogas and hydroelectricity
- Mandate obligatory power purchase prices to finance renewable electricity that private individuals and businesses self-generated.
- Bring to fruition the objective of financing 1500 Methanation projects in France alone.
- Introducing 35 million smart meters (smart grid technology)
Under the ETL, the Multiannual Energy Plan (MEP/PPE) sets a general orientation for the energy policy in France from 2019 to 2023 and 2024 to 2028. This general policy includes projections and plans for renewable electricity, hydropower, onshore wind, offshore wind, photovoltaic solar, methanation (waste and biogas), firewood, marine, geothermal and solar thermal.
Ongoing Renewable Energy Projects In France
Solar energy has been tipped to dominate the French RE market, and it doesn't stop at mere rhetorics. While most of the current projects are wind, solar projects constitute the higher capacity of these two. Below are some of the French projects under construction:
- 3.7MW solar power supply plant in Montclar— which is expected to last over 20 years, comprises 8,600 solar panels spanning 4.2 hectares. This project will have the capacity to supply green electricity to 2,500 households.
- On February 10 2022, President Emmanuel Macron announced, after publicly recognizing that solar energy is the future of French renewable energy, announced plans to realize 5GW/year to achieve the country's objective of 100GW by 2050.
- Yeu-Noirmoutier Offshore Wind Farm— is a €2 billion project located off the Pays-de-la-Loire coast. The wind farm comprises 62 wind turbines, each with a capacity of 8MW, and is proposed to begin operation in 2025. Upon completion, this project is forecast to meet the annual electricity needs of 800,000 people and is expected to last over 25 years.
Calvados Offshore Wind Farm— is a 448MW offshore wind farm located in the English Channel, off the Northern France coast. When launched in 2024, this mega project will supply green electricity to 630,000 households.
The French government hopes to increase the support for renewables by 25% by injecting €6 billion into renewables energy spending in 2021, targeting further diversification of the country's energy mix, and by 2028 double installed renewable electricity capacity to up to 113 GW. Onshore wind will generate up to 34.7 GW, offshore wind - 6.2 GW, solar - 44 GW and hydropower 26.7 GW.
By 2035, 14 nuclear reactors will have been closed; two found in eastern France at Electricite de France SA's Fessenheim plant have already been shuttered.
Hydroelectricity is currently the primary source of France's renewable electricity, but wind power is slowly catching up. Projections show wind power will overtake hydroelectricity in France by 2030, with 43,89% of the total energy mix. However, solar energy is the most likely to dominate the entire RE market, with more PV installations happening in and outside major municipalities. These speculations further put the RE market's compound annual growth rate (CAGR) at over 7.4% between 2022 and 2027.
France aims to reduce its energy consumption by 14% by 2028 and increase installed RE power generation to 74 GW in 2023. This will bring the net addition within the ten years upheld by MEP/PPE to about 50 MW – 60 MW.
A breakdown of the statistics associated with RE in France tells a lot about how rough it has been keeping up with other nations making steady progress in the RE market. However, the projections, visualized through analyses of previous and current trends, demonstrate how seriously the country is revolutionizing its RE market.
With the most sensitive sector associated with energy consumption being fixed through the growing number of EV registrations, smart charging is an excellent way to sustain this development.