French parliament approves energy transition

13 October 2014

The lower house of France's parliament has voted in favour of cutting the country's reliance on nuclear energy to 50% of power generation by 2025 as part of the a long-awaited energy policy.  

French president Francois Hollande's 2012 election pledge was to limit nuclear's share of French generation at 50% by 2025, and the closure of France's oldest nuclear power plant, Fessenheim, by the end of 2016. In June, following a national energy debate, his government announced that the country's nuclear generating capacity will indeed be capped at the current level of 63.2 GWe. It will also be limited to 50% of France's total output by 2025. Nuclear currently accounts for almost 75% of the country's electricity production, making closures of power reactors appear inevitable.

Debate about France's Energy Transition for Green Growth bill began in the National Assembly on 1 October. On 10 October, deputies in the lower house of parliament agreed on the overall objectives of the bill. These include: a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a 75% reduction by 2050, compared with 1990 levels; halving overall energy consumption by 2050 compared with 2012; increasing renewable energy's share of final energy consumption to 32%; and cutting the share of nuclear in electricity generation to 50% by 2025.

Members of the French parliament will now have two weeks to examine the bill. The bill is expected to be ratified next year.

Fessenheim closure costs

A parliamentary report of the Committee on Finance was presented to the National Assembly on 30 September. It called for a postponement in the closure of the Fessenheim plant, saying that there were no technical reasons for its closure and that shutting the plant early would have economic and social impacts.

According to the report, the closure of Fessenheim in 2016 - when the EPR currently under construction at Flamanville is due to start operating - would cost the state some €5 billion ($6.3 billion), including some €4 billion ($5.1 billion) in compensation to EDF.

The Fessenheim plant is currently generating average annual profits of some €200 million ($254 million), the report says. Allowing the plant to continue operating after 2016 until 2040 would result in profits of some €4.7 billion ($6.0 billion), it estimates. "The question arises as to whether the proposed energy policy by the government justifies supporting such a cost in the context of constrained public finances," says the report.

The report concluded, "Whatever the long-term energy policy followed, it would make sense, fiscally and economically, to retain the benefit of the 'surplus nuclear' by not prematurely closing second generation plants currently in operation."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News