France wants to reduce its dependence on nuclear energy while simultaneously boosting renewables, as part of a new energy transition law revealed this week by the Hollande government. The FT reports:
A so-called energy transition law, unveiled by the Socialist government on Wednesday, reiterated an election pledge by President François Hollande to cut the share of nuclear power in French electricity generation to 50 per cent by 2025 from about 75 per cent today, the highest level among developed economies.[U]nder pressure from the left and its Green party allies, the government insists the country needs to rebalance its energy mix to boost its lagging performance in non-nuclear renewables and meet ambitious environmental targets.
This is a difficult one to wrap one’s head around. Ostensibly, the rationale for the greens pushing through this policy change is that France’s considerable reliance on nuclear energy has stunted investments in renewable sources like wind and solar. This new law isn’t just setting a cap on nuclear; it’s also setting ambitious targets for renewables, which it hopes will comprise nearly a third of French energy production by 2030, more than double their current market share of 15 percent.But it seems that policymakers have forgotten why renewables are an environmental boon, and are simply pursuing their development as an end in itself. The chief advantage of renewables—their lack of greenhouse gas emissions—is also present with nuclear energy. Even better, nuclear power stations can produce electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Reducing nuclear’s slice of the French energy pie for environmental reasons is, frankly, flabbergasting, especially with the promising advances in safer, smaller, less wasteful reactor technology coming down the pike.Germany embarked on a similar energy transition four years ago, phasing out nuclear energy in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster and dramatically increasing solar and wind energy production with expensive feed-in tariffs. This Energiewende, as it’s called, has left Germany with some of the highest electricity prices in Europe and an increasing reliance on dirty-burning coal, and all the emissions and local air pollution that brings. Paris seems to be following in Berlin’s footsteps, but it does so at its own peril.