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08/12/2016

French energy transition debate heats up

Sustainable Dev.

French energy transition debate heats up

Solar furnace on an office building in France. [Joseph Giral/Flickr]

Debate about France’s energy transition bill began in the French parliament on 1 October. Minister of Ecology Ségolène Royal hailed the text as the most ambitious in the European Union, EurActiv France reports.

The French parliament embarked on its examination of the bill for an Energy Transition Towards Green Growth on Wednesday 1 October.  Ségolène Royal stated that the aim of the bill was to “give France the most advanced [energy transition] legislation in Europe”.

The Ecology Minister told parliament that the bill, a flagship project of President Hollande’s term, would be Europe’s only law to “integrate all the dimensions of the energy transition and green economic growth”.

French MPs will now have two weeks to examine the bill, composed of 64 articles and almost 500 amendments adopted in a special commission last week.

Limited nuclear phase-out

The bill fixes long term objectives for reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, increasing the potential of renewable energy.

The ambitious targets set by the legislation are to reduce overall energy consumption by 50% by 2050, compared with 2012 levels, to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030, and by three quarters by 2050, to bring down fossil fuel consumption by 30% and increase renewable energy production by 32% by 2030.

In addition to these targets, the French government plans to reduce the proportion of the country’s electricity generated in nuclear power stations from 75% to 50% by 2025.

The message is clear: although France plans to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy, it wants to avoid a complete redesign of its energy model.

Intermediate objectives

Following a national consultation, the government added the intermediate objective of reducing overall energy consumption by 20% by 2030.

This amendment, supported by several NGOs, will help spread out the process of reducing energy consumption and help to ensure that it remains on course.

>> Read: France throws weight behind 30% energy savings goal

Committing to intermediate objectives will also help France to meet its 2030 European climate and energy package targets, due to be discussed at the European summit in Brussels from 23 to 24 October.

The 2030 climate and energy package, presented by the European Commission in January 2014, sets a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to 1990 levels, and raising the share of renewables in the energy mix to 27% across the whole of the EU.

>> Read: EU sets out ‘walk now, sprint later’ 2030 clean energy vision

Ségolène Royale said that the energy transition bill would be “the most effective lever for a fast exit from the crisis”, promising that it would create up to 75,000 jobs in the construction sector, for improvements to the energy efficiency of buildings, 60,000 in wood construction and biomass, and 11,000 in the gas and electricity sectors, for the installation of intelligent meters.

Image issues

The success of the energy transition bill is hugely important for France’s international image ahead of the 21st UN climate conference, due to be held in Paris in December 2015. The aim of this conference is to arrive at the first broad international agreement on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“By setting the example ourselves, we will be able to lead the global summit to success,” the minister insisted.

>> Read: French bosses more optimistic on energy transition than German counterparts

Background

The energy transition was a central part of François Hollande's presidential campaign in 2012, and it is the flagship piece of legislation for his term in office. France wants to set a good example to other countries when it hosts the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. It is playing a leading role in the European climate debate, thanks in part to its low CO2 Emissions. France's reliance on nuclear energy means it has much lower CO2 emissions than coal-dependent countries like Denmark or Germany. However, the country's energy efficiency track-record is a weak point.

Timeline

October 2014: Discussion of the text in the National Assembly

23-24 October 2014: European Council in Brussels

December 2015: United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris

Further Reading

Energy transition bill (in French)