ECN publication
Shifting the policy focus from nuclear to renewable electricity in France
Published by: Publication date:
ECN Policy Studies 1-9-2002
ECN report number: Document type:
ECN-C--02-043 ECN publication
Number of pages: Full text:
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The study analyses two related observations. France?s nuclear solutionis not technically perfect or widely accepted. And France could take better advantage of the plentiful renewable sources it owns. The main challenge of the essay is to discern a way from the currently nuclear-based energy system in the direction of a system with an increased participation of renewable energy.

The essay starts with an enumeration of typical aspects of the current organisation of the French energy sector. With a state-owned industry, a legal monopoly on imports and exports and a low speed to liberalise the sector, France considers being economically and socially efficient and guaranteeing safety, and therefore does not favour privatisation. In the meantime, the nuclear way is economically and politically less safe than it has been. France might have to cope with the technical limitations given by a too substantial share (77%) of nuclear power. There is a growing need for diversification with complementary sources.

Next, the current policy framework is evaluated in an energy-environmental context. France has a relatively good record on environmental issues, except for its share of renewable electricity production, which has actually decreased in recent years. However, interest in the development of renewable energy resources in France is certainly increasing. The release of the Cachet report in September 2001 seems to have been a turning point in French energy politics and has led to several structural measures such as feed-in tariffs to encourage the generation of renewable electricity.

These results are the starting point for analysing various renewable electricity technologies. One can see attractive developments in favour of most renewables. However, a number of counter-acting forces is still present. Some market barriers are old, like subsidies for other energy sources including nuclear, and difficult to remove. Other barriers are new, like impeding regulations and administrative planning aspects, departmental compartmentalisation, etc. Such market distortions might terminate several promising market developments.

The conclusion finally sharpens up the findings about the organisation of the French energy sector and the investigated renewable technology ofitions. It is expected that France might (further) shift its focus from nuclear towards renewable electricity by increasing its idiosyncratic, regulatory guidance instead of lessening it. It might be indeed attractive to develop renewable technology sub-industries and not only their output, renewable electricity. One cannot really imagine why a country with splendid renewable resources should not strive to kill two birds with one stone when this opportunity seems to come.

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