While nuclear advocates point to France as a model for successfully relying on nuclear energy, under President Hollande’s leadership, it is moving away from nuclear and toward renewable energy.
The government announced it will begin taxing carbon emissions from the use of fossil fuels and will also place a levy on nuclear energy to finance billions of dollars worth of energy efficiency and renewable projects.
A carbon tax on fossil fuel consumption (oil, diesel, coal, natural gas) will be phased in, raising $5.4 billion by 2016, and a nuclear tax will be applied over the remaining lifetime of the country’s 58 reactors. People that work in the fishing and transport industries are exempt from the carbon tax.
The goal is to raise the share of renewables to 23% by 2020 (up from 13% now) and cut energy consumption in half by 2050. Nuclear’s share of the energy mix would drop 75% today to 50% by 2025, and use of fossil fuels would decline 30% by 2030. The transition is expected to cost 20 billion euros a year.
By the end of the year, President Hollande promises to pass a law that caps nuclear capacity and gives the government (which owns about 85% of Electricite de France (EDF)) the legal right to close reactors.
Hollande views growth of the renewable energy industry as an important way to tackle soaring unemployment in addition to supplying clean, safe energy. 100,000 people are employed by the industry, which will more than double by 2020 if production targets are met. He won the election for his focus on growth, not austerity.
France has long postponed its first offshore wind farms, but is now calling for 25 gigawatts (GW) of wind, tidal and wave power by 2020 – it has the most potential for tidal power in Europe after the UK, about 4 GW.
Last week, the government released a $267 million request for proposal for a pilot marine energy project of 80 megawatts.
Wind energy accounts for just 2% of France’s power today, while solar generates less than 0.5%.
One of the simple energy efficiency measures France is taking is requiring commercial buildings to shut their lights off at night. This alone will save the energy it takes to power 750,000 homes!