Macron presents France’s long-term ‘nuclear-heavy’ energy plan

France should also build six new EPR 2 type nuclear reactors "by 2028, with the first reactor to be commissioned by 2035", the president added. EPA-EFE/Jean-Francois Badias / POOL / POOL POOL PHOTO MAXPPP OUT [EPA-EFE/Jean-Francois Badias / POOL / POOL POOL PHOTO MAXPPP OUT]

Multiplying solar energy capacity tenfold, deploying around fifty offshore wind farms and building six EPR 2 nuclear reactors. These are all part of France’s long-term energy plan President Emmanuel Macron detailed on Thursday (10 February). EURACTIV France reports.

“Even if we reduce our energy consumption by 40%, the exit from oil and gas over the next thirty years means that we will have to replace a part of our fossil fuel consumption with electricity,” the president said in his speech during a trip to Belfort, in eastern France.

“We will have to be able to produce up to 60% more electricity than we do today,” he stressed, noting that decarbonising this electricity will be the major challenge.

“The key to producing this most decarbonised, safest and most sovereign electricity is precisely to have a plural strategy,” the head of state also said.

Energy and industry

“We must increase our capacity to produce renewable energy,” Macron said and promised a “lifting of regulatory barriers as long as the projects are accepted locally”.

Some concrete objectives set by the head of state include “[the] tenfold increase [in] solar power capacity by 2050” to “exceed 100 gigawatts” and the 10% increase in the share of renewable gas by 2030.

Creating around fifty offshore wind farms to “aim for 40 gigawatts in service by 2050”, and doubling the capacity of onshore wind power, are also among the objectives cited.

“As of this year, we will put the first offshore wind farm into operation, off Saint-Nazaire,” said Macron. The aim is to develop low-carbon energy and an industrial sector, he added.

“We will continue to develop industrial employment and investments so that these strong choices for offshore wind power are accompanied by job creation everywhere on our territory,” the head of state said.

Many more nuclear plants 

The energy mix Macron unveiled for France is also heavily weighted towards nuclear – which the European Commission recently included in the much-debated EU’s green taxonomy, designed to facilitate private investment.

France should also build six new EPR 2 type nuclear reactors “by 2028, with the first reactor to be commissioned by 2035”, the president added. EPR 2 is an optimised type of the EPR technology, which is a third-generation pressurised water reactor design developed mainly by Framatome and EDF.

Macron is also mulling the possibility of building eight more.

“We are going to start the preparatory work in the coming weeks: Finalising the design studies, referring the matter to the National Commission for Public Debate, defining the locations for three pairs of EPRs, and ramping up the industry.”

On existing reactors, Macron said their lives should be prolonged.

“I hope that no nuclear reactor in a state of production will be closed in the future, given the very significant increase in our electricity needs. Unless, of course, there are safety reasons for doing so.”

Macron thus requested “EDF to study the conditions for extending the life of the reactor beyond 50 years in conjunction with the Nuclear Safety Authority.”

France to build up to 14 new nuclear reactors by 2050

French President Emmanuel Macron expressed his desire to develop nuclear energy and renewable energies to produce “more decarbonised electricity” and announced the construction of six new nuclear reactors.

In front of workers at General Electric Steam Power in Belfort, the French …

A disputed strategy

Macron said France has “no choice but to rely on these two pillars [nuclear and renewable energies] at the same time. It is the most relevant choice from an ecological point of view and the most appropriate from an economic point of view. Finally, the least expensive from a financial point of view. So that’s why it’s the choice we’re going to pursue”.

However, this choice for France’s energy mix has already drawn criticism from Macron’s political opponents.

“Nuclear power is a renunciation of alternative energies,” said Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the lead candidate for the radical left party, La France Insoumise, in the presidential elections due in April.

Bruno Retailleau, leader of the right-wing Les Républicains group in the Senate, said Macron’s “strategic mistake on nuclear power will have cost France years of delay, thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of euros. All the reversals in the world will not make up for this incredible mess”.

Yannick Jadot, the Green candidate in the presidential elections, accused Macron of “condemning France to programmed energy and industrial obsolescence until the end of the century.”

“6 #EPR = 6 fiascos. Without any debate and for a cost equivalent to the budget of the public hospital! Irresponsible!” he said.

But according to Brice Lalonde, president of the think tank Equilibre des énergies and former environment minister, the president’s vision “is coherent”.

“Nuclear and renewable energies are complementary. We must plan their development (…). France is now choosing an accessible, low-carbon, sovereign energy policy,” said Lalonde.

However, before the announced projects are to be implemented, Macron said he wishes to set up “a broad public consultation on energy (…) in the second half of 2022.”

Following the consultation, “parliamentary discussions will be held in 2023 to revise the multi-annual energy programme,” the president added.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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