France wants to boost renewable energy, now lagging behind
President Emmanuel Macron was set to unveil a plan on Thursday to boost renewable energy in France, including offshore wind farms and solar power, as the country is lagging behind most of its European neighbors.
The move comes amid a major energy crisis in Europe, aggravated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, as Macron wants the country to gain more independence in terms of electricity production.
Macron went on a boat Thursday to visit France’s first offshore wind farm off the port of Saint-Nazaire in western France.
He was scheduled to detail in a speech later Thursday a range of measures meant to facilitate and accelerate renewable energy projects, according to the French presidency. A bill will be presented next week at a Cabinet meeting.
France’s energy strategy has long relied on developing nuclear power — based on imported uranium— which provides about 67% of French electricity, more than any other country.
Macron announced at the beginning of the year plans to build six new nuclear reactors and to extend the life of its existing nuclear plants as part of the country’s strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
But relieving France’s dependence on global gas and oil producers also involves boosting renewable energy, he said.
France had previously set the goal to increase its share of energy from renewable sources to 23% by 2020 — but only managed to reach 19%. That leaves the country in 17th position in the European Union, below the average of 22% in the bloc of 27 countries, according to latest statistics.
Despite France’s thousands of kilometers (miles) of coastline, only the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm, with its 80 turbines, has emerged so far.
Macron set the goal to build about 50 similar facilities by 2050 in France.
He also hopes to multiply by 10 the amount of solar energy produced, and to double power from land-based wind farms in the same period of time.
Macron’s new strategy comes as a long-term response to the energy crisis, but it won’t help in dealing with shorter-term challenges.
France and other European countries fear electricity shortages this winter as Russia has choked off the supplies of cheap natural gas that the continent depended on for years to run factories, generate electricity and heat homes.
At the moment, about half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors, all operated by EDF, are shut down for usual maintenance and, in some cases, to repair corrosion problems. The government said earlier this month that EDF committed to restart all of them by this winter.
The government has warned that a worst-case scenario could lead to rolling power cuts in French homes, and officials have presented an “energy sobriety” plan targeting a 10% reduction in energy use by 2024.
Sylvie Corbet reported from Paris.