Électricité de France (EDF)
Energy in France is generated from five primary sources: coal, natural gas, liquid fuels, nuclear power, and renewables. These serve as inputs to France’s power grid system, which is comprised of a centralized electricity grid dominated by nuclear power. In 2020, nuclear power made up the largest portion of electricity generation, at around 78% and renewables accounted for 19.1%. This electrical grid powers not only France but parts of continental Europe through the Continental Europe Synchronous Area (CESA) or the largest synchronous electrical grid in the world supplying over 400 million customers in 24 countries, including most of the European Union. France has historically produced more nuclear power than its domestic needs making it the world’s largest net exporter of electricity.
France’s experience of energy vulnerability during the two world wars led to the French State to play an increasingly prominent role in the nation’s energy management by nationalizing French energy companies. However, France’s vulnerabilities persisted into the 1970s during the first oil crisis of 1973, prompting the country to invest in a nuclear power program to ensure its energy independence. During the 1980s and 1990s France built out its large nuclear fleet, birthing a nuclear power sector almost entirely owned by the French government. Électricité de France (EDF) is France’s main electricity generation and distribution company. It was founded on 8 April 1946 as a result of the nationalization of several electricity producers, transporters, and distributors. Until 1999, EDF held a monopoly in the distribution, if not the production, of electricity in France until it became subject to the first European Union directive to harmonize regulation of electricity markets.
France’s large share of nuclear electricity together with its renewable energy supplies has helped its power grid achieve very low carbon intensity. The operating life of France’s nuclear generators however is about 60 years, requiring that most be decommissioned by the year 2050. In order to keep emissions low in this case, the retiring reactors will have to be replaced with either a mix of new reactors and renewables or be replaced entirely with renewables. Both such options will rely heavily on the scaling up of wind and solar power. Hydropower is currently France’s primary renewable energy source, accounting for 13% of the mix, followed by wind power, representing 7.9%. As renewable energy generation becomes an increasingly large share of the French power grid, the power grid will need to be reconfigured to integrate large-scale decentralized production from renewable sources.
This Post was submitted by Climate Scorecard France Country Manager Liana Mehring
Learn More Resources
“Nuclear Power in France.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 Nov. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France.
Continental Europe Successful Synchronisation with Ukraine and Moldova Power Systems, https://www.entsoe.eu/news/2022/03/16/continental-europe-successful-synchronisation-with-ukraine-and-moldova-power-systems/#:~:text=The%20Continental%20Europe%20Synchronous%20Area%20(CESA)%20is%20the%20largest%20synchronous,most%20of%20the%20European%20Union.
Iea. “Conditions and Requirements for the Technical Feasibility of a Power System with a High Share of Renewables in France towards 2050 – Analysis.” IEA, https://www.iea.org/reports/conditions-and-requirements-for-the-technical-feasibility-of-a-power-system-with-a-high-share-of-renewables-in-france-towards-2050.
“Électricité De France.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Nov. 2022, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89lectricit%C3%A9_de_France.
Image: Pylons of high-tension electricity power lines are seen in Avesnes-le-Sec, near Cambrai, France, January 8, 2021. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol