France turns to wind and solar as it plans to exit coal, and phase down nuclear

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Macron plans to exit coal by 2022, and delay closure of 14 nuclear reactors while it completes a massive investment in wind and solar.

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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.

In addition to the country’s new nuclear policy, Emmanuel Macron also announced that France would close all its coal power plants by 2022. “This is a pioneering measure,” Macron said, “because the reality is that all over the world, alas, not only we do not close, but all too often we continue to open new coal plants.”

“If we achieve these goals, and if we create the conditions today, we will have come a long way in terms of climate,” Macron added. “Much of the way, but not all the way. Because to continue to move, heat, produce and consume in good conditions, it must still be able to produce alternative energy to oil, coal and gas. And that’s the goal of this programming.”

Macron also announced plans to triple the output of onshore wind energy by 2030, and to increase solar PV production by five-times.

France will also look to begin developing offshore wind during the next five years, which includes commissioning the first fleet of wind turbines off Saint-Nazaire, and a promise of new offshore wind tenders.

France has dedicated €5 billion annually to the development of renewable energy, which will be financed entirely by the revenues of the country’s fuel tax, which has sparked significant protests in the streets of Paris.

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