Natural gas is more positively perceived than other energy sources because the combustion of natural gas emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal and thirty percent less than oil. Still, in France, natural gas constitutes around twenty percent of greenhouse gas emissions. In 2020, emissions from fuel types in France reveal that gas produced 80.91 million tonnes while oil produced 161.33 million tonnes, and coal produced 21.25 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
In 2020, France consumed 40.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas. Natural gas consumption in France has fluctuated slightly between 37 and 44 bcm over the last fifteen years but has decreased overall by 6% since 2009. France’s diminishing natural gas production is small, around 0.01 bcm in 2020 down from 0.76 bcm in 2009. Under the Hydrocarbons Law of 2017, France became one of the first countries to completely ban gas and oil exploration on its national territory by 2040. While admirable, the law is largely symbolic as very little natural gas remains in mainland France. Consequently, France relies heavily on imports. In 2020 France imported 45.4 bcm of gas, 19.6 bcm of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and 25.7 bcm from pipelines. France imports its natural gas from Norway, Russia, the Netherlands and Nigeria while exporting small amounts to Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
Currently, nearly half of the gas consumption in France is used in offices, shops, public buildings, and private residences, mainly for heating. As of 2019, France’s gas consumption by sector included industry 31%, residential 30%, electricity and heat generation 19%, services and others 17%, other energy 1.5%, and transport 0.4%. 11.4 million customers use natural gas in France, 94% of which are households and comprising 25% of the gas demand.
Natural Gas Policy
Natural gas accounts for a stable share of 20% of France’s energy consumption. As France seeks to reduce its fossil fuel usage by 40% by 2030 compared to 2012 levels however their natural gas consumption will need to decline by 25% from current levels by 2030. Currently, France is exploring the application of renewable gases which are not derived from fossil fuels and reduce atmospheric emissions. While more expensive and less abundant than natural gas, renewable gases still represent a growing market in France with 0.1 bcm of biogas produced domestically in 2019. France is also reinvesting in its nuclear energy program by building as many as 14 nuclear reactors by 2050 as a carbon-free alternative to natural gas.
France’s natural gas policy in relation to its overall climate goals is mixed. France remains highly dependent on natural gas imports from Russia. However, it supports the European Commission’s REPowerEU initiative which seeks to remediate Europe’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels by diversifying gas supplies, investing in renewable gases and replacing gas in heating and power generation.
However, France also supports European Commission initiatives which many critics view as detrimental to the continent’s overall climate goals, namely the labeling or ‘greenwashing’ of nuclear power and natural gas generation as sustainable investments. Instead of stimulating green investments, critics claim the new EU taxonomy regulation will penalize clean technologies, stifle innovation, and direct billions of euros towards greenwashed investments which constitute ‘business as usual.’ Austria, Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands have come out in opposition to the idea of labeling any ‘fossil gas-based activities’ as sustainable however France supports the proposal as “a good compromise.” This compromise, in France’s view, will allow France to leverage nuclear power to replace natural gas in the long run. In the short run however, France will continue to rely on natural gas to satisfy its domestic power needs as nuclear outage and maintenance problems are predicted to plague the country through this year and next.
Learn More Sources
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This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard France Country Manager Liana Mehring