Cleaner, Smarter, Cheaper: Opportunities for France in Europe’s changing energy system

A new study commissioned by the European Climate Foundation shows how France can reap the opportunity of cheaper clean technologies and embrace higher ambition on climate and energy, in line with the Paris Agreement goals.

The “Plus propre, plus intelligent, moins cher: saisir les opportunités dans un système électrique européen en transition” report analyses the benefits for France of going beyond the Clean Energy Package current proposals and demonstrates that France can reduce its nuclear capacities without increasing its emissions and maintain current levels of electricity exports.  

Over the past few years, we have witnessed significant cost reductions of renewable and storage technologies as well as unexpected progress on electrification and smart consumers, while a growing number of EU Member States have announced or are debating coal phase-out strategiesReductions in the costs of clean technology have gone far beyond anyone’s expectations and are tipping the economics in favour of decarbonisation. Global action on climate change, meanwhile, is further accelerating clean energy deployment and innovation. This is game-changing for Europe.

How should Europe and, in particular France, respond to this new reality?

To answer that question, the European Climate Foundation and partners in the Energy Union Choices consortium (E3GRAPWWF EPO and BPIE) asked experts from Artelys to update the outlook for the European power sector to 2030 and compare that to current ambition levels of energy policy. The study was published in late 2017 but its European modelling exercise has been used to provide a compilation of the major insights for France and compare them with the latest scenario-based projections for the French power system provided in RTE’s Bilan Prévisionnel (BP)

The main highlights from the report are the following:

  • Renewable energy costs have significantly dropped over the past years. It is important to update assumptions accordingly in any prospective analysis.
  • Phasing-out coal and reducing nuclear capacities to 40 GW in 2030 at the same time is possible in France without increasing CO2 emissions thanks to an accelerated RES development.
  • Phasing-out conventional power plants in Europe creates room for significant volumes of additional low-cost renewable capacities that current projections constantly underestimate. France could reach a RES target of more than 50% in national power generation in 2030 and still maintain its important export levels.
  • The technology shift from coal and nuclear towards renewables can be realised without increasing gas demand beyond today’s levels, as demand side response (DSR) and interconnectors provide the necessary flexibility.

The report (in French) is available for download here.