French investment in renewable energies fell by half in 2015, placing the country’s targets ever further out of reach. EURACTIV France reports.
Renewable energy has never been France’s strong point. With its well-established nuclear infrastructure, the country’s energy producers have preferred to rest on their radioactive laurels.
Nuclear power, which is carbon neutral and widely available, offers little incentive to invest in alternative energy sources. After making strong progress from 2005 to 2014, French investment in renewables has taken a big hit, as the European Commission had feared last June.
The level of investment fell by an alarming 53% from 2014 to 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
Early statistics show that 2015 saw a 4% increase in worldwide renewable energy investments, taking them to a record high of €329 billion.
But French investment fell from €6.2 billion in 2014 to €2.9 billion in 2015, as the number of big projects fell sharply. Investment by the country’s traditional energy providers in renewables sunk from €3.6 billion in 2014 to €0.9 billion in 2015.
>>Read: Energy giants accused of blocking renewables in France (in French)
Breaking European commitments
This sudden drop-off in investment places France in a worrying position regarding its international commitments.
Under the Renewable Energy Directive, France should have generated 16% of its energy from renewable sources by 2014 in order to stay on track for the 2020 target of 23%.
“The delays we have seen concern both electricity and heating, and were worsened by the unusual weather conditions in 2014, which affected the production of wood fuel,” the Ministry of Ecology stated at the end of 2015.
Wood and hydropower are the main sources of renewable energy in France, accounting for 5.9% and 3.6% of total energy consumption respectively.
In 2014, wind turbines provided around 1% of the country’s energy, while the combination of solar thermal, photovoltaic, geothermal, biomass and biogas produced a further 1%.
Behind the curve
While France is struggling to meet its renewable energy targets, and remains below the European average of 15% renewables in the energy mix, some EU countries have already exceeded their 2020 objectives. These are Bulgaria, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Romania.
The 2009/28 Directive on renewable energy set out an EU-wide target of 20% for the overall share of energy coming from renewable sources in Europe.
This EU-wide objective is shared out into differentiated national goals, according to each country's relative potential and economic capabilities: France has an objective of 23%. In 2013, France fell behind with its energy transition, achieving 61% of its 2020 target, while the European average was 75%.
But several other countries have fallen further behind with their efforts: the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Malta have yet to achieve half of their 2020 objectives. At the other end of the scale, five countries have already exceeded their 2020 objective. These are Bulgaria, Sweden, Estonia, Lithuania and Romania.
- Renewable energy progress report (15 June 2015)