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France—Yes 100% by 2050

The European Union officially launched the European Union Climate and Energy Package in 2008, setting new environmental targets for 2020 that are even more ambitious than those set in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. One of these objectives is to reach a 20% share of renewable energies in the total EU consumption by 2020. Upon signature of the package, France committed to a 23% national objective by 2020, which was further confirmed in the 2009 Grenelle I law and the 2010 Grenelle II law.

By the end of 2016, the share of renewable energies was estimated at 16% of the energy mix. Despite the booster effect provided by the 2015 Transition Law, experts are still skeptical as to the feasibility and achievability of the 23% objective by 2020, with current estimates at 17%, according to the Renewable Energies Union. In the mid/long-term, the 2015 Transition Law sets a 32% objective for the share of renewable energies in the total energy mix in 2030. Furthermore, the 100% target set in the 2015 Transition Law for 2050 appears to be increasingly realistic/feasible at the national level, as several studies point out (see read more).

In socio-economic terms, the transition to renewable energy could lead to as much as €370 Billion of savings over the period 2020-2050. Moreover, job creation is expected to compensate the predicted job losses in some sectors due to this transition from traditional energies to renewable energies. For instance, négaWatt’s experts estimate the net/difference between job creation and job losses at +380,000 new/stable job opportunities by 2030 and +500,000 by 2050.

Following the 2009/28/CE EU directive, France started implementing action plans, such as the National Action Plan in Favour of Renewable Energies (PNA EnR), in order to help the country meet its objectives. Nevertheless, there have been noticeable delays and the results of these plans and policies have been different depending on the sector/industry. For instance, the weather/meteorological conditions clearly impacted on the 2014-2015 consumption of firewood. Moreover, the monitoring/tracking tool for the Renewable Energy (EnR) directive has not taken into account these meteorological changes/variations to adjust the set targets/objectives.

Nevertheless, a strategic document called the Multi-Annual Energy Programming (PPE), approved in 2016 (to be reviewed in 2018 – then every 5 years), sets new/adjusted targets for 2018 and 2023. This tool is articulated with a set of existing strategies and plans that contribute to the development of renewable energy in France. These include, for instance, the National Strategy for the Mobilization of Biomass, the National Strategy for Energy Research and the National Plan for the Reduction of Air Pollutant Emissions.

A project that can be taken as an example to illustrate this transition is Europe’s largest solar power plant, inaugurated in France in 2015. The plant called Cestas and based near Bordeaux, produces solar energy (300 MW) at a price cheaper than the one offered by new nuclear plants. Cestas is connected to the national grid and sells electricity to EDF for 105€/MWh. As a comparison, the new Hinkley Point nuclear energy plant in the UK is expected to sell electricity at a price of 130€/MWh. Nevertheless, Cestas’ price is still twice as much as the one offered by old nuclear energy plants in France (around 55€/MWh). An interesting aspect to highlight here is the decreasing cost of producing electricity from solar energy in the last few years. For instance, the first version of the Cestas project (2010) included projected/price estimates of around 300€/MWh. Linking this project to the action plans discussed previously, Cestas produces 300 MW of power and contributes to meeting France’s 8,000 MW target in 2020 (i.e. the target for photovoltaic power in 2020), and, therefore, contributes to the gradual transition towards a greener economy.

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