Solar energy neglected in French candidates’ green transition plans

The presidential candidates' plans do not seem to be aligned with the country's green transtion strategy's target of 20.1GW of solar energy by 2023. [Esther Snippe] [Esther Snippe]

Solar energy development in France is unlikely to increase much over the next five years, as most presidential candidates have not prioritised it despite its positive perceptions from the electorate. EURACTIV France reports.

While France gets on average 200 days of sunshine every year, solar power technology is still not widely deployed.

In 2021, photovoltaic energy represented 3% of electricity production, equivalent to 13.6 TWh. Although this number is very low, production was up compared to the previous year when it accounted for 2.5% (12.6 TWh).

“Up to 2021, over the course of a year, France deployed 2GW of solar at best. This ‘record’ has been broken in 2021 with a deployment of 2.7GW, which is encouraging even if it remains insufficient,” underlines Phuc-Vinh Nguyen, a researcher on European and French energy policies at the Jacques Delors Institute.

In comparison, between 2014 and 2021, Germany installed 5GW of photovoltaics per year.

“However, the potential for sunshine is much more significant here than in Germany,” noted Nguyen in an interview with EURACTIV.

Positively perceived

In a survey on French people and the environment carried out in 2018 by the French Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe), 63% of respondents indicated that solar energy was the renewable energy that should be developed as a priority in France.

But how can such a gap in deployment between France and Germany be explained?

“The main obstacle to the development of solar energy is the administrative burden associated with each application,” says Nguyen. Yet, “the aim of the multi-annual energy programme for 2023 is to achieve 20.1GW” of solar energy, explains the researcher. “This implies installing 3.5GW/year in 2022 and 2023 to meet the targets”.

Despite this, most presidential candidates have failed to include specific solar power pledges in their manifestos.

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Renewable energies are to be used in German agriculture, as the agriculture, climate and environment ministries led by three Green ministers want moor areas – which are key for the climate – to be connected to agricultural photovoltaics. EURACTIV Germany reports.

A lack of quantified objectives

Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s goal of 100% renewable energy by 2050 bodes well for solar energy, but unfortunately, the candidate does not give any quantified objectives in this area. In his manifesto, he only states that he wants to “promote the use of the various energy sources that are best suited to the weather and geographical conditions” throughout the country.

Emmanuel Macron has a clearer proposal, namely “a tenfold increase of our solar power”. The candidate “remains in line with his five-year term with a moderate goal, aiming for 100GW in 2050, i.e. an extension of the +3GW/year rate”, adds Nguyen.

As for Valérie Pécresse, she has nothing specific about solar energy. She simply wants to develop renewable energies, in addition to nuclear power, by decentralising decision-making.

Meanwhile, Marine Le Pen stated on Twitter on 2 April that she wanted “a moratorium on solar and wind power, two intermittent energy sources that have proven to be inefficient and are extremely expensive.”

However, according to Nguyen, her position is difficult to understand. “To do without solar energy would mean not achieving the climate neutrality objectives, as well as damaging an existing and future job pool in France.”

Finally, Eric Zemmour is reportedly not in favour of solar energy, according to the Shifters, a group of volunteers from the Shift Project think tank, who analysed the candidates’ manifestos on energy and climate issues.

“In general, most of the candidates have not displayed any quantified objectives”, which “hinders the possibility of objectively assessing the implementation of their programmes”, says Nguyen.

Greenpeace France pointed to the conclusions of the third part of the IPCC report, published on Monday, 4 April. It recalled that “energy efficiency, the reduction of energy demand and the development of solar and wind energies are key to the fight against climate change in terms of energy”. Therefore, expressing political will in the field of solar energy seems more crucial than ever.

Five takeaways from the IPCC’s report on limiting dangerous global heating

The world is on track to overshoot 1.5C warming. Leaving fossil fuels in the ground, changing lifestyles and removing CO2 from the air are needed to fix the climate, reports Climate Home News.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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