France will continue to invest in nuclear power as part of its transition to clean energy, despite the country increasingly turning to offshore wind.
President Emmanuel Macron has promised €1 billion towards the development of innovative small-scale nuclear reactors. His aim is to have these reactors deployed in France by 2030, and comes despite a previous commitment to cut the country’s reliance on nuclear power.
Early on in his presidency, Macron said that he would cut nuclear’s contribution to France’s energy mix from 75 to 50% by 2035. However, it seems the president has had a change of heart, with nuclear power being seen by many as an easier way to generate a lot of electricity cleanly.
Despite committing €1 billion towards the development of these new small-scale nuclear reactors, that doesn’t mean Macron is no longer committed to diversification of the energy grid. The country has also heavily invested in renewable energy projects – such as wind and solar power.
On the solar power front, Disneyland Paris is currently building one of the largest solar canopy plants in Europe. When fully operational, these solar canopies will produce 31 GWh of electricity each year, which is technically enough clean energy to account for 17% of the resort’s total electricity consumption.
The country is just as bullish about wind power, with the French Government currently discussing development of a 750 MW floating solar farm in the Atlantic, which could be expanded to 2 GW.
These large scale projects are not enough to cover France’s entire energy usage, however, which is why the French Government is keen to diversify. In fact, similar plans have been revealed in the UK, spearheaded by Rolls-Royce.
A consortium led by Rolls-Royce believes that it can roll-out small nuclear reactors at a fraction of the cost of a full nuclear power plant, and produce 440 MW of energy – reliably, 24/7. It’s likely that France will be looking to invest in similar technology.
However, there are still concerns as to whether nuclear energy can truly be regarded as green – after all, it produces radioactive waste. Germany is one country rallying against nuclear power, with the European Union currently stuck on deciding whether nuclear energy will be labelled as “green” in the evolving EU green finance taxonomy.
France believes that Germany’s anti-nuclear approach is the wrong one, after all, the country has had to plug the shortfall caused by closing nuclear reactors with coal power plants – hardly a gold standard when it comes to going green.