Six months before the presidential election, the energy, so far rather discreet, invites itself everywhere in the campaign. It must be said that the subject is essential. Both to preserve the purchasing power of citizens, threatened by an exceptional surge in prices. But also, in fine, to decide on the future of the French model, in a context of climate change. And on this last point, the question takes the form of an equation with two unknowns: what places will nuclear and renewable energies have to occupy in the coming decades?
To answer it, it is clear that the public debate is polarizing. From the sling against the wind power of Marine Le Pen (RN) or Xavier Bertrand (LR) to the firmly anti-nuclear position of Yannick Jadot (EELV), through a form of sacralization of historic atomic energy, a sign of a sovereignty today “lost”, by Eric Zemmour: each one preaches for his parish, skillfully selecting the arguments validating his cause. A cacophony that blurs the boundaries between political beliefs and scientific facts, regretted the Renewable Energies Union (SER), which organized its annual conference last Thursday.
“ Stop disinformation, preconceived ideas and artificial antagonisms “, Argued its president, Jean-Louis Bal, launching” a call to responsibility for the opening campaign “.
All renewable and all nuclear
Above all, the SER did not defend that renewable energies, targets of ” untruths “: He also called for not completely excluding nuclear, which still represents nearly 70% of the French electricity mix (against around 25% renewable, especially hydraulic), allowing France to benefit from low carbon electricity . Indeed, even by analyzing its entire life cycle – taking into account the emissions linked to uranium extraction or concrete from power plants – nuclear power emits very little greenhouse gas: much less than coal or gas, and even less than solar.
“There is no such thing as having the luxury of choosing between several low-carbon solutions. The only subject is: how to decarbonise quickly, ”said Nicolas Couderc, deputy general manager of EDF Renouvelables and administrator of the SER. And to add, to put an end to any opposition: ” We will need all renewable and all nuclear power “.
Because it is, for the SER, to unite against a common “enemy”: fossil fuels emitting CO2 (coal, oil and gas), which still represent nearly 65% of final energy consumption in the hexagon. All the more so as electricity consumption should jump in the coming years, reaching around 630 TWh by 2050, against around 470 TWh today, according to the forecasts of the RTE network operator. Requiring a similar increase in supply, which renewables might not be able to deliver on their own – at least initially.
The tone is set, when the most nuclear-powered country in the world is preparing to decide on the follow-up to be given to its program in the atom. Because even if the government gives the green light to the construction of new EPRs (European Pressurized Reactors, third generation reactors) in the territory, the development of renewable energy would not be affected, argued the SER.
“We must stop comparing energies with each other. They use different means, ”insisted Xavier Daval, CEO of the company specializing in the kiloWattsol solar field and vice-president of the SER.
The fact remains that the French capacity in the atom must not exclude other low-carbon energy sources from the public debate, argued Jean-Louis Bal. ” The worst thing is when we say that renewables are useless, because the mix is already carbon-free by nuclear power. “, He said. Because faced with the upcoming increase in electricity consumption, “ it is not the construction of new EPRs that can provide an immediate response to these short-term needs », He affirmed. An argument regularly brandished by the Minister for Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, since the installation of these reactors takes many years, and can accumulate a long delay – as evidenced by the work in progress since 2004 in Flamanville.
Six scenarios on the mix in 2050
To get a clearer picture of the actual breakdown, on October 25, RTE will publish an unprecedented study on the various paths to carbon neutrality and the means to be implemented to achieve it, entitled “Energy Futures in 2050”. The network manager will compare six energy mix scenarios: three involving new nuclear power, and three that will not, including one up to 100% renewable energies in 2050.
Its president, Xavier Piechaczyk has already revealed on Twitter that, if it wants to achieve 50% nuclear production, France should be able to build in 30 years “to about 14 EPR, about fifteen SMR [Small Modular Reactors, des petits réacteurs modulaires, ndlr], and to extend certain nuclear units beyond 60 years “. An immense challenge that could influence the decision of Brussels on the “green” taxonomy, that is to say the inclusion or not of the atom in the activities considered good for the climate in order to guide investors. The French government has been pleading for several months for the inclusion of the atom in this list, and yesterday published a forum to this effect, alongside nine other member states.