France has been a leader in international efforts to combat climate change. However, it must accelerate key elements of its energy transformation if it is to achieve its goals. According to a new policy review conducted by the International Energy Agency, the government faces crucial decisions regarding its future energy mix.
According to the IEA 2021 Energy Policy Review of France, the current pace of French deployment of low-carbon energy technologies is not fast enough to allow the government to reach its climate and energy targets. This calls for increased policy efforts and investments. A clear strategy must be developed for the country’s future electricity supply development.
France has been a leader in raising global climate ambitions. France has shown leadership in raising global climate ambitions within the European Union, and most importantly, it played a leading role in negotiations that led to the 2015 landmark Paris Agreement.
France was the first country to adopt a climate law. In 2019, the government set the goal of achieving net zero emissions by 2050. France promotes green finance and green budgeting across government. This aligns national revenue and expenditure processes with climate goals. The 2030 Investment Programme of the government and its economic recovery plan are some of the most ambitious global efforts to transition clean energy. They have innovative financing schemes that encourage retrofitting and low-carbon transportation.
The government of France must make important decisions in 2022 to ensure that the country meets its 2050 net zero emission goal. This includes plans to modernise France’s nuclear power fleet. To meet the EU’s 55% emission reduction goal by 2030, the government will need to increase its clean energy ambitions.
France is at a crossroads. It must make key decisions about its future energy system soon in order to reach net zero emissions by 2050. France can make progress on its key climate and energy goals by investing more in energy efficiency, renewable power and nuclear energy,” said Fatih Birol (the Executive Director of the IEA), who launched the report today in Paris with Barbara Pompili (France’s Minister for Ecological Transition).
France’s National Low-Carbon Strategy is built on energy efficiency. The government aims to reduce final energy consumption by half between 2012 and 2050. The residential and service sectors have seen the most efficiency gains over the past 20 years. This is due to the adoption of stricter building codes and more rigorous product regulations. The pace of renovations is still slow, and there have been very few savings in the transport sector.
France still produces half of its renewable energy output from hydropower plants built decades ago. The government wants to speed up progress in solar and winds power by streamlining permits and promoting flagship initiatives. It also seeks to better align regional and national ambitions. These promising efforts could be undermined if there aren’t more consistent and sustained policies.
Minister Pompili stated that the IEA peer review was very valuable because it provides an independent assessment of the strengths and limitations of our energy policies, particularly in the context the 2050 carbon neutrality commitment. This review is timely, especially to prepare for the French multi-annual Plan Review preparation and discuss the energy and climate programming act in 2023. The IEA review confirms France’s orientations based on three pillars, namely strengthening energy efficiency, developing renewable energies, and maintaining a strong nuclear electricity base.
France must expand renewable energy to maintain its low-carbon power sector. It also needs to decide what the future holds for its old nuclear fleet. France accounted in 2019 for 71% of all electricity production. It is doing important work. RTE, the operator of the power system, has tested several scenarios for decarbonisation. This was supported by a dedicated study of the IEA about the technical challenges involved in integrating high amounts of renewables. These findings can be used to inform critical decisions regarding France’s electricity future.
According to the IEA, the government should take a timely decision about a vision for France’s electricity mix after 2030 and the financing mechanisms to support it. This will send clear signals to investors in particular on nuclear energy. To ensure adequate electricity supply in the clean energy transition, the government must also improve its capacity market.
During the transition to clean energy, energy security will be a key factor. France still depends on oil and natural gas for more than two-thirds its energy needs. The government should encourage the switch to low-carbon fuels, and support France’s adaptation of its oil and gas infrastructure. This includes engaging in European and international cooperation on fuels like hydrogen.
Dr Birol stated that “In addition to a strong focus on policies to support a climate and people-centred transition to energy, the government also needs to continue to take action to protect energy security as the nature changes.” This means that we need to increase support for research and development in order to ensure the availability of clean energy technologies. This includes developing measures to ensure that critical minerals are available for key technologies such as EV batteries or wind turbines. It also includes investments in energy infrastructure that will make it more resilient to cyber threats and more severe weather – and compatible to new low-carbon sources of energy.
The IEA recommends regular progress reviews and strengthening government implementation capacity to ensure that the French government can achieve its climate and energy goals.