France is at a crossroads, writes Jules Hebert, program coordinator at the Heinrich Böll Foundation office in Paris. It can pursue a renewed nuclear model – or follow the German example and invest massively in renewable energy. It is often said that the French people support the nuclear path, notes Hebert – but a recent survey comes to a different conclusion.
Energy Post 30th Jan 2018 read more »
Can France Mix Nuclear and Renewable Power? France’s nuclear giant has a plan to survive the wave of renewable energy that’s sweeping aside old-fashioned utilities across Europe. First it needs to disprove the conventional wisdom about how reactors work. Electricite de France SA says its fleet of nuclear reactors aren’t just able to provide a steady stream of power, they’re flexible enough to complement a large fluctuating supply of renewable energy. Combined with a 25 billion-euro ($31 billion) solar plan and potential investments in huge batteries, the utility says it can ride out the energy upheaval, while also helping the French government fulfill its goal of cutting reliance on nuclear power. “Our nuclear is flexible, it’s variable,” said EDF Chief Executive Officer Jean-Bernard Levy. “Renewable energies are totally complementary.” That combination is the most cost effective way of generating low-carbon electricity in France, EDF says, but that doesn’t mean it comes cheap. Huge investments are needed to prolong the life of atomic plants plus billions more for renewables, but right now the utility is struggling to generate enough cash. It needs to spend 48 billion euros in the 12 years through 2025 to renovate reactors and expects to fund about half of the 30 gigawatts of solar developments the company plans on French soil by 2035. EDF says its reactors can vary output by as much as 80 percent twice a day. All 58 of them are equipped with control rods, which can be inserted into the core and slow the rate of fission that generates energy. The mechanism is usually used for emergency shutdowns by automatically falling in between nuclear fuel assemblies, but EDF says the equipment can be easily maneuvered to accelerate or slow the rate of power generation. It says it can also fine-tune output by changing the concentration of a chemical in the reactor. European electricity prices are currently too low to cover the investments required to renovate EDF’s reactor fleet and build new facilities to replace the oldest plants. The utility will need some regulatory support from the government to foot the bill, said CEO Levy. In the U.K., the government guaranteed power prices for 35 years to encourage the company to build a new 19.6 billion-pound ($27.7 billion) nuclear plant. However, for Ecology Minister Nicolas Hulot, expanding renewable energy is the priority, not building new reactors.
Bloomberg 31st Jan 2018 read more »