Fresh from the success of hosting the One Planet Summit in Paris last week, French President Emmanuel Macron yesterday underscored his commitment to decarbonising the country’s energy system.
In an interview with broadcaster France 2, Macron said nuclear and renewables would remain the key planks of the country’s emission reduction plans, in contrast to German efforts to phase out nuclear power.
“I don’t idolize nuclear energy at all,” Macron said in comments reported by Reuters. “But I think you have to pick your battle. My priority in France, Europe and internationally is CO2 emissions and (global) warming.”
“Nuclear is not bad for carbon emissions, it’s even the most carbon-free way to produce electricity with renewables,” he added.
Macron was elected with a mandate to step up investment in renewables and is working on plans to mobilise fresh investment in wind and solar power across the country, alongside new investments in energy efficiency and electric vehicles.
However, France’s energy system remains hugely reliant on its fleet of nuclear reactors, which have been credited with providing the country with some of the lowest per capita emissions in Europe.
National regulator ASN is currently undertaking a review of France’s 58 nuclear reactors and is expected to come forward with a series of recommendations in 2020-21 on whether ageing plants should be shuttered or have their life extended.
However, Macron downplayed the chances of a widespread phase out of old reactors.
“What did the Germans do when they shut all their nuclear in one go?” he asked. “They developed a lot of renewables but they also massively reopened thermal and coal. They worsened their CO2 footprint, it wasn’t good for the planet. So I won’t do that.”
He added that the government’s decisions would be based on ASN’s recommendations. “It’ll be rational,” he said. “So in the face of that, we’ll have to shut some plants. Maybe we’ll have to modernize others.”
However, critics of nuclear power remain sceptical about the ability of the industry to deliver new reactors at a competitive cost, following plummeting prices for renewables and high profile delays at French utility EDF’s new Flamanville reactor.
Macron’s comments come after last week’s One Planet Summit delivered a flurry of announcements from leading businesses and investors, detailing how listed corporations can expect to face growing calls from shareholders for them to develop strategies that are compatible with the decarbonisation goals of the Paris Agreement.