Thursday, 06 May 2021 03:18

France trailing behind EU renewable energy goals


The European Union is expected to soon raise its renewable energy target to 38-40% by 2030, and France, which has already failed to reach its 2020 goal, could have difficulties in meeting the new objective. EURACTIV France reports.

Producing renewable energy in France has been a difficult journey.

Renewables accounted for 19.1% of France’s energy mix in 2020, significantly short of the 23% target imposed by the bloc’s renewable energy directive in 2009.

This is, in part due, to the country’s heavy reliance on nuclear power, which alone accounts for 78% of its electricity production.

On the eve of the climate summit organised by US President Joe Biden last month, the EU raised its climate ambitions.

The European Commission is expected to announce in July that it wants to raise the bloc’s target for renewable energies to a minimum of 38% of the total energy mix, requiring an additional effort from the 27 EU countries.

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Delayed development

However, France is lagging behind in the development of renewable energies.

Wind power has had a rough start with the construction of the Sain-Brieuc wind farm – due to become operational in 2023 – criticised for its exorbitant cost, its destructive effect on the environment, and the danger it poses for marine and terrestrial biodiversity.

The development of solar energy, despite being better suited to French weather and easier to predict, comes with its own set of problems, particularly as photovoltaic panels are produced in China, which uses coal in the manufacturing process.

“The CO2 balance is not great. They should be manufactured in Europe,” said Brice Lalonde, president of the association Équilibre des Énergies.

For the time being, wood energy and hydraulic energy remain the most developed, representing 52.5% of the renewable energies available in France, far ahead of wind and solar, which represent 10.4% and 3.4%, respectively.

Elsewhere in Europe, the use of renewable energy varies widely.

Denmark is currently leading the way with 62% of its energy being produced by renewables and is followed by Sweden and Finland. The bloc’s laggards include Portugal, Italy and Bulgaria.

Nuclear and renewables complementary

However, the rules will change with the ‘Fit for 55’ initiative, as the Commission will impose a European target for 2030, rather than a national one, and member states will not be subject to obligations, but to indications.

This could present an opportunity for France, as a leading European producer, to promote its massive production of nuclear energy.

Fighting global warming, according to Lalonde, is only possible with nuclear power.

“If the objective is to reduce emissions, then let’s make room for nuclear power in the taxonomy. Let’s accept the idea that it is more or less equivalent to renewable energies in the fight against climate change,” he said.

“We must stop being anti-nuclear on principle. Renewable energies and nuclear power are complementary. Europe is happy to have nuclear electricity when it needs it, just as it is happy to have electricity from windmills in northern Germany,” said Lalonde.

The focus should be on reducing emissions, he added, “and not energy efficiency and renewables. Because these are the means, they are not the ends.”

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