François Hollande yesterday began his political career as first leader of France. All Europe is now focusing on him and his next cabinet, which will undertake measures to relaunch the economy and various productive sectors burdened in the previous government. One of them is the renewable energy sector, which has lived in the shadow of the 58 nuclear reactors currently operating in our northern neighbor.
As regards energy policy, Hollande’s campaign proposed to gradually reduce the burden on nuclear electricity production in France, in order to move by 2025 from the current 75% to 50%, which would translate in shutting down about 15 reactors. At the moment, the plant which seems to have seen its day is Fessenheim, the country’s oldest one (35 years) since Hollande promised to close it before the end of his mandate. However, the French nuclear capacity will not be reduced as a third reactor expected to generate even more energy than Fessenheim is planned to be commissionned in Pely plant.
The so-called “ecological transition” does however plan to draft the best possible road map, in the words of Councillor Marie-Helene Aubert, likely to become Minister of Environment, and marks a discussion line in which social and ecological concerns go hand in hand. Hard question when it comes to choosing between jobs and environmental impact of the facilities. In any case, it seems that the first step is to include nuclear energy among the topics to be discussed at the Government’s environmental conference, a subject that Sarkozy had refused to raise because he considered it non negotiable. In this case, the first expected milestone is that within five years, some subsectors of French renewable energy be profitable and competitive.
Thus, Hollande proposes to reduce CO2 emissions to meet international commitments on greenhouse gases and increase the share of renewable energies, which will also benefit from greater financial support to encourage innovation and development. Furthermore, in order to improve the purchasing power of the French, Hollande proposes to freeze fuel prices for three months.
Regardless of the support for renewables, which we shall see how it develops, Hollande has indicated that it will create a plan to improve the thermal insulation of a million homes, creating thousands of jobs while benefiting the economies of the family households participating in the program. Energy efficiency is one of the most profitable policies, since not only does it benefit consumers directly but it also relieves oil dependent governments.
What we do not know yet is to which extent, can the French policy in favor of renewables, affect other member countries. France, despite of being one of Europe’s engines in terms of industrial development has not yet had a dominant role in the development of renewable energy. It may be the time.