CleanTech Disruption: France turns to wind and solar as it plans to exit coal and phase down nuclear

French President Emmanuel Macron has finally outlined the mid and long term energy plans for the country, announcing that it will close all its coal plants by 2022, shutter 14 nuclear reactors by 2035 and invest massively in wind and solar.

In a speech given on Tuesday, Macron announced a range of policy measures that will significantly readjust France’s energy mix over the next decade because it effectively delays the nuclear closures by a decade until enough wind and solar can be built to take their place.

The country plans to boosts its solar capacity five fold from 8.5GW to 45GW, and to treble its wind capacity. Some analysts think that the nuclear phase down could be accelerated as storage evolves.

The long term switch to wind and solar and storage over nuclear is driven by the cost of new facilities. There is no commitment to any new nuclear generators, with one in construction, at Flamanville facing massive cost over-runs and delays.

Macron said his plan would see the close down of 14 of the country’s first generation 900MW nuclear power reactors – and France will reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and decrease its contribution to the energy mix from 75% to 50% by 2035.

Of the 14 nuclear reactors set to be retired, two had already been announced – the country’s two oldest reactors in Fessenheim in the country’s east, which will be closed by 2020 – and between four and six reactors will be closed by 2030, with the remainder to be closed in the following five years.

Macron explained that he was not elected to completely phase out nuclear power, but to reduce nuclear to 50%, a commitment he intends to keep. The country currently has 58 nuclear plants that provide about 70 per cent of its generation.


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