French power sector disputes EU-wide energy savings goal

Nuclear plant outside Paris [Gretchen Mahan/Flickr]

The French Union for Electricity (UFE), an industry trade group, sharply criticised the government's energy transition bill, calling on EU-wide targets for 2030 to be adjusted on a country-by-country basis. EurActiv France reports.

As Europe debates new energy policies for 2030, France’s new law on energy transition (LPTE) is increasingly coming under fire.

Although the bill was presented in late June, it will not be discussed in Parliament until the autumn.

“This bill does not respond to European concerns,” said the UFE's delegate general, Jean-François Raux, claiming that EU priorities are shifting.

"The question of competitiveness and supply security certainty will take centre stage," he said. "These are issues that cannot be separated from any energy transition legislation," he said, adding that the UFE shares "many points in common" with the European Commission's energy directorate on the matter.

On the whole, the UFE agrees with the new legislation's goal to reduce CO2 emissions by 40% by 2030.

"However, other targets are not necessary or coherent," Raux said, referring to objectives of the bill aimed at reducing the consumption of energy, fossil fuels, and ensure renewable energies represent 32% of energy consumption.

2020 climate and energy package

The UFE criticised the EU Commission's 2030 policy framework for climate and energy, which inspired the French bill.

The government wants to halve energy consumption in France by 2050, an objective which is unacceptable for energy producers, who say EU objectives need to be adapted to the national context.

"Energy policies must be adjusted depending on the country. Saving on electricity in Germany means saving on coal," said Raux, who wants the energy efficiency target to be replaced with an energy "intensity" goal.

Focus on petrol instead of energy efficiency

France is hesitant when it comes to energy efficiency and is trying to prevent targets from becoming legally-binding. The pan-European 2020 targets were not legally-binding and some countries are pushing for a more exacting framework to be adopted in the 2030 package.

For big energy producers, reducing the demand for energy is not desirable or feasible. The UFE refers to Sweden as a prime example. It developed a low coal consuming system using hydroelectricity, nuclear energy and thermal power stations accompanied with a coal tax. These measures still led to higher energy consumption per capita.

The UFE wants to directly target petrol rather than gas and electricity in the transition framework. Petrol represents 60% of CO2 emissions in France. This is largely due to the transport sector, yet the French bill concentrates on reducing emissions from the building sector.

Bone of contention

France is set to miss its 2020 energy efficiency goal and lacks political will also for the 2030 targets.

"France believes that the targets should not be intertwined, that they are independent," said a source close to the French government.

The French Green Party is split on the issue. Those in the European Parliament argue for a more critical stance on France's new energy transition legislation.

But those in the National Assembly are in a more awkward position. On Tuesday (8 July), Denis Baupin and Michèle Bonneton, both Green MPs, asked questions about the future of the legislation, but did not question its overall design, despite its obvious environmental shortcomings.

Green spokesperson, Julien Bayou, is much more critical, especially in relation to the nuclear energy sector. In a tweet, he insinuated that the French energy champion EDF had been doing a good job at shaping the French law, saying: "the EDF lobby is good shape”.



Mike Parr's picture

On a dull summer's(?) day it is always nice to have a dolt (cretin?) talking self serving rubbish: step forward Mr Jean-François Raux - you really have made my day.

Raux sees no point in French electricity customers saving energy : this can be either a) because they are already highly energy efficient or b) JFR is concerned that if they do save electricity his funders (i.e. the people that work in nuclear power stations) will be out of a job.

At a demand response conference last November, EdF noted that the demand for electricity in France is a function of temperate & if the temperature changes quickly - so does demand. This behaviour is due to the fact that many French houses are very badly insulated (just like those in the UK).

Deconstructing: Raux wants French citizens to keep on wasting energy and he does not want to see France implement energy efficiency programmes. I'd class people such as Raux as, frankly, self-serving cretins.

French "energy producers (that would be EdF?) say EU objectives need to be adapted to the national context" - ah so the national contex would be - continue to waste energy?

A former business partner advised me once "Mike never educate a c..t" - in the case of Raux - I'll make an exception.

There is much talk about pan-Euro electricity markets. Let's just imagine France does implement meaningful energy efficiency & all that lovely cheap(?) nuclear elec is looking for a home. Well - build say 5GW of cross-border connections to the UK and bingo - you have a market - the French nukes can keep glowing in the night and Raux's members keep their jobs . I'd also observe that there is little that the dolts in Ofgem could do to stop this - single market/3rd energy package etc.

Of course the above would not fit in with EdF's plans to build expensive nukes in the UK - ooops - market what market?