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France

France

Wind could provide nuclear alternative

FRANCE: Wind energy could help wean France off its reliance on nuclear power by 2030, according to a report by grid operator Reseau de Transport d'electricite (RTE). RTE has warned that unless France takes urgent action it could face electricity shortages from 2016 and miss its 2020 wind-energy target by a significant margin.

In its latest forecast of the balance of supply and demand in France to 2030, RTE examines five scenarios, including business as usual and a decline in nuclear power. This is the first time RTE has been asked to consider what would happen if France scaled back its nuclear generation, a question sparked by recent events in Japan and Germany's decision to close its nuclear fleet.

In its "low nuclear" scenario, RTE foresees nuclear's share of electricity supply falling from more than 75% today to around 50% in 2030. RTE concludes this is technically feasible, but only with a massive scale-up of renewable capacity to meet 38% of demand. This would require 40GW of wind energy in 2030, compared with just 6GW to date, and 25GW of photovoltaic capacity.

France would also need to limit growth in consumption, build an extra 10GW of reserve capacity and double the grid capacity with neighbouring countries.

Even in its "business as usual" scenario, RTE predicts most of the growth in demand would be met by renewables. In this scenario, energy from renewable sources would supply 21% of electricity needs in 2020 and more than 28% in 2030, as opposed to 14% today.

While the 2020 figure is not far off the country's binding EU target of 23% renewables by that date, it confirms that France is unlikely to reach its goal of 25GW of installed wind capacity by 2020. Instead, RTE expects wind will continue to grow at a modest rate of 1 to 1.5GW a year to reach 17GW in 2020 and 32GW in 2030.

But even this may not be achieved. "It is important to note uncertainties in terms of the application of regulatory changes underway that could impact the development of wind generation," RTE warns, referring to the recent tightening of controls on turbines.

At the same time, if France continues as it is without building significant new capacity, it risks a shortage of supply within five years.

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