2015 electricity review : France still a long way from energy transition targets

The French electricity grid authority (RTE) has published on 03/02/16 its annual national electricity review. A way to check how far France is on the way to implementing the energy transition.

The French electricity grid authority (RTE) has published on 03/02/16 its annual national electricity review. A way to check how far France is on the way to implementing the energy transition.

The report reveals that despite a slight increase in 2015, the French electricity consumption has in general stabilised over the last four years. This cannot be only linked to the economic downturn, and the good news is that we are not doomed to using always more power. The end of growth is now hitting not only the industrial but also the residential and tertiary sectors. On a per capita basis, the electricity consumption is even slightly decreasing (back to its 2006 level). Energy regulations on buildings and appliances adopted in the past start having effect, notably by decreasing the share of direct electric heating.

However, the French electricity demand remains highly dependent on weather conditions. The 2015 winter peak has reached a 91.6 GW level, 20 % higher than in more populated Germany.

These trends appear far from sufficient with respect to the mid and long-term energy transition targets of the country, notably halving the final energy demand by 2050.

As regards supply, wind energy, solar energy, and fossil fuels have been increasingly used to provide electricity compared to the previous year. Hydro has declined, due to lower water resources.

Despite the growth in wind and solar (+23 % and +25 % in installed capacities respectively), the loss in hydro has not been compensated, and France is still steadily on the verge of missing its EU target of 27 % of renewable electricity by 2020. Only a substantial policy overhaul can now make the difference, also with respect to the other national commitment to reduce the share of nuclear power to 50 % by 2025 as part of the energy transition bill passed in 2015. This share has so far remained stable around 75 %, and no change can be spotted.

In total, France is still overproducing, and exporting. More than 10 % of the national production is consumed elsewhere, representing around 8 nuclear reactors.