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24.04.2017 15:05
French Withdrawal from Nuclear Could Lead to Structural Deficits
A victory for current front-runner Emmanuel Macron could reduce the dominance of nuclear and result in the country, traditionally Europe’s largest exporter of power, becoming increasingly dependent on imports, a report by S&P Global Platts says

  • Elections front-runner Emmanuel Macron
    © Mutualité française,

France is facing its most uncertain presidential elections in decades. The outcome is critical not just on a geopolitical level, but also in terms national energy policy, with nuclear the key battleground.

A victory for current front-runner Emmanuel Macron could reduce the dominance of nuclear and result in the country, traditionally Europe’s largest exporter of power, becoming increasingly dependent on imports, a report by S&P Global Platts argues.

Macron’s views are also closest to business-as-usual with the candidate set to expand on President Francois Hollande’s energy transition path, while former conservative French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and far right candidate Marine Le Pen favor of a ‘return to glory’ for the French nuclear industry.

French energy giant EDF says decommissioning the French nuclear fleet will cost EUR 54 billion and plans to set aside EUR23 billion. This is why France could face a structural deficit during the winter peak, through coal and nuclear closures, should front-runner Macron stick to his predecessor’s energy transition plan.

It includes reducing nuclear’s share in the power mix to 50% by 2025, equivalent to cutting 25 GW of capacity, Platts estimated.

Of the three main candidates, Emmanuel Macron is most closely associated with the outgoing Hollande administration, having resigned a year ago as economy minister, while the other two challengers - Francois Fillon and Marine Le Pen – are in favor of preserving the French nuclear industry. EDF, in one of its final board meetings ahead of the elections, agreed to the closure of France’s oldest NPP at Fessenheim on the day the new ERP Flamanville reactor goes into service around late 2018/early 2019, describing the Fessenheim closure as “irreversible and inevitable”.

Beyond Fessenheim and Flamanville, the nuclear question centers around the fact that 17 reactors with a combined capacity of over 15 GW reach their current end-of-lifespan before the next presidential elections in 2022. While Fillon and Le Pen support the program for a life-span extension – the Grand Carenage - Macron’s statements on nuclear suggest his opposition to such a program.

“It’s not good to have 75% of our energy coming from nuclear. I will keep the energy transition program and hence I will keep the 50% cap [by 2025],” Macron said in his manifesto.

However, Macron also said that any strategic decision regarding nuclear would come once French nuclear regulator ASN had published its conclusions on the Grand Carenage towards the end of 2018.
This outcome would open the way for gas-fired generation to provide much-needed flexibility.

Gas could also receive a competitive boost from a Macron-inspired carbon price floor — spelling the end for France’s remaining coal units, the S&P Global Platts report said.

TAGS: France | elections | Emmanuel Macron | Francois Fillon | Marine Le Pen | energy | nuclear | EDF 

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