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23 April 2020

France announces renewables push to 2028, keeps coal and nuclear

The French government has published its energy policy roadmap between 2019 and 2028, with the intention of cutting greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030. Through this period renewables look set to rise to 33% of total energy consumption, with significant additions from onshore wind and solar, while floating wind causes a surge in offshore capacity. However, some of France’s promises to phase out coal and nuclear remain in contradiction to current action across the country.

President Macron’s government published a decree in the country’s Official Journal this Thursday detailing its multi-year “Programmation pluriannuelle de l’énergie (PPE),” and steps to increase the presence of renewables in France, while reducing the share of nuclear power in the electricity mix. The country currently has an installed renewables base of 53 GW, which will rise to 73 GW by 2023 under this plan, before potentially hitting 112 GW in 2028.

For onshore wind, plans aim to increase capacity from 16.2 GW today to 24.1 GW in 2023 and between 33.2 GW and 34.7 GW by 2028. This will be facilitated through two calls for tender per year, with an available capacity of up to 925 MW.

In contradiction to its plans of decarbonization, France has scaled back its intentions to ramp up solar PV. Aiming to only increase capacity from 10.6 GW at the end of 2019 to 20.1 GW in 2023 before rising to between 35.1 GW and 44.0 GW by 2028 – leaving a lot of room for the country to fall short of ambition. This is a reduction against previous plans to see a 500% increase in installed capacity through the decade. Current plans for tenders include two per year for up to 1 GW of ground photovoltaics, as well as three per year for up to 300 MW for rooftop solar.

The country has also stated modest plans to increase hydroelectricity (including tidal power) by up to 1 GW over the next decade, from a current capacity of 25.8 GW. While negligible plans are in place to build on biogas (methanization) capacity. Objectives have also been developed for up to 230 TWh of heat to be produced from renewables by 2028, while recovering as much as 39 TWh from other industries.

The most promising sign within the plan is arguably the advanced interest in offshore wind. France currently sits way behind neighboring counterparts like the UK and Germany, having installed only 2 MW worth of pilot projects by the end of 2019 – compared to the UK total of nearly 10 GW. Under the PPE plan, 2.4 GW of capacity will be installed by 2023, before a total of between 5.2 GW and 6.2 GW is reached by 2028, with tenders announced as below now amounting to nearly 8 GW of capacity – up from previous goals of 5 GW through the decade.

This is a rise from previous plans of between 4.7 GW and 5.2 GW in the same timeframe – although the growth is almost solely attributable to floating wind in the long term. Many of the 1 GW tenders from 2024 onwards are likely to focus on floating platforms and it is possible that the 3 GW of fixed-bottom offshore wind in the near term could be merely a way of developing the country’s supply chain before it goes hell-for-leather once floating emerges as cost competitive – which we see happening between 2028 and 2030.

The problem that France faces in this regard, is that the lead time of offshore wind projects is often in excess of 7 years, and the results of these tenders won’t make their way into the electricity mix until beyond 2030. In 2030, Rethink Energy anticipates that France will have under 1 GW of floating wind through pilot projects, included in a total offshore capacity of 5.9 GW. This comes prior to a boom in installations due to these announced tenders, which will see a rise in capacity to 17.3 GW by 2040.

Renewable energies are also set to take up 7% of gas consumption by 2030, by ramping up the production of biogas, and its injection into current networks. Up to 100 MW of power-to-green hydrogen demonstrators are being targeted by 2028, with green hydrogen set to account for between 20% and 40% of hydrogen in industry.

Other plans within the energy system aim to increase the number of electric vehicles in the country to 3 million by 2028, with an additional 1.8 million rechargeable hybrid passenger vehicles and 0.5 million from the commercial sector. Plans have yet to be detailed for the build out of EV charging points to 2028, although France aims to have 100,000 open to the public by the end of 2023, with more modest build outs for hydrogen refueling. The presence of biofuels within petrol and diesel are also set to reach 1.2% and 0.4% respectively by 2023 before rising to 3.8% and 2.8% in 2028.

The plan has also confirmed the government’s objective to close 14 nuclear reactors across the country by 2035, including two at the Fessenheim plant which will be fully shut down by the end of June this year. This is part of an encompassing plan to reduce the share of nuclear power within the electricity mix from 70% today to 50% by 2035 – a decline that was enshrined in the energy transition law in 2015.

This again is against some of the governments previous actions. In October last year, we reported rumors that Macron’s government had ordered 6 new EPR reactors from EDF to be installed over the next 15 years. These would amount to around 18 GW of capacity, which would essentially tie the country into nuclear power beyond 2050. These projects would also follow the template of the Flamanville installation – which has been disastrous so far – running 10 years late and €1.5 billion over budget.

Compared to 2012, the country aims to reduce its consumption of coal, petroleum and gas, outlining targets: to reduce natural gas consumption by 10% by 2023 and 22% by 2023; to reduce petroleum consumption by 19% by 2023 and 34% by 2028; and to reduce coal consumption by 66% by 2023 and 80% by 2028. The last of these has been noted by the Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition to contradict the intention to phase coal out by 2022, which was announced in 2018.

Measures are also intended to reduce overall energy consumption by 7.5% by 2023 and 16.5% by 2028.

France is currently working on its energy roadmap to 2050, set for publication in the near future, detailing how the country intends to meet its pledge to become carbon neutral in that time.