France Is Not Keeping Up With Its Renewable Energy Target, Despite Government Subsidies

Spotlight Activity: France Is Not Keeping Up With Its Renewable Energy Target, Despite Government Subsidies

In 2018, the share of renewable sources of the gross final energy consumption in France was 16%. Among renewables, the most important are wood fuel (41%) and hydropower (20%), followed by biomass (9%), thermal power (8%) and wind power (7%). There is significant potential for growth in most types of renewable energy: according to an estimate by the electric utility company ENGIE, French departments were using at best only 15% of their renewable potential. Potential is seen especially in offshore wind power, whereas most traditional hydropower potential has already been harnessed.

The French Environment and Energy Management Agency ADEME published in 2017 calculations of the costs of different modes of renewable energy production, taking into account the entire lifetime of the power plant. Accordingly, hydropower would provide the country’s cheapest energy at 15-20 €/MWh, while the cost of geothermal and onshore wind power would be at around 50-90 €/MWh. Most other renewables would range at approximately 100-300 €/MWh. Nuclear energy, dominating the French energy market today at around 70% of energy consumption, is the second least expensive type of energy at 50 €/MWh, although the costs for the new EPR design are calculated at 120 €/MWh. Fossil fuels lie at 100€ /MWh. 

The 2015 law on energy transition for green growth stipulates the share of renewables of the country’s gross final energy consumption should be 23% by 2020, and 32% by 2030. Figures are further specified for types of energy usage. While the French government offers financial support and competitive advantages to renewable energy production, Climate Scorecard argues such subsidies are neither an efficient nor, in the long term, a sustainable method. Instead, we propose to modify energy and building regulations currently hindering the development of heat pumps and promoting CO2-intensive gas heating. 

Energy efficient heat pumps are a major asset in the battle against global warming. Their cooling and heating technology has the potential to major energy and environmental issues facing our planet. Since heating accounts for more than half of households’ energy consumption, increasing the use of heat pumps would markedly reduce household dependency on non-renewable energy sources. This would bring France rapidly closer to its renewable energy objectives.

Status: Falling Behind

Take Action

With its current level at some 16%, it seems unlikely that France will reach its own target of 23% renewables of the gross final energy consumption by 2020, nor the common EU target of 20% by 2020.

Write to the President of France, Mr. Emmanuel Macron, and Ministers for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Ms. Élisabeth Borne, Ms. Brune Poirson and Ms. Emmanuelle Wargon:

Dear Mr. President, Dear Ms. Ministers,

We commend the readiness of France to have assumed a greater responsibility than the EU28 common target of a share of 20% renewable energy of the gross final energy consumption by 2020. However, today France is falling behind both its own ambition of 23% renewable energy and the common target of 20%. Transition to renewable energy is vital for countering climate change. We urge your Government to take prompt action to approach the set target in the short term and to ensure reaching the mid-term target of 32% renewable energy by 2030. As one step in the right direction, we propose revising current energy and building regulations that are promoting CO2-intensive gas heating and hindering the development of climate friendly heat pumps.

With our respectful and best regards,

[sign name]

Send Action Alert Message to:

Emmanuel Macron


Ms. François de Rugy


Mrs. Brune Poirson


Mrs Emmanuelle Wargon


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