SAINT-NAZAIRE, France – On Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron called for a “massive acceleration” of the development of renewable energy in his country, including offshore wind farms and solar energy, through a new plan that seeks to bring the lagging France closer to its energy policies. European neighbors.
The move comes in the midst of a severe energy crisis in Europe aggravated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Macron wants France to gain more independence in terms of electricity generation.
“The war changed everything… it upset the European model, because many countries depended on Russian gas for (energy) production. And clearly, for the first time, energy has become a weapon of war, “Macron stressed in his speech in Saint-Nazaire, a port in western France.
Macron went on a boat Thursday morning to visit France’s first offshore wind farm off the Atlantic coast.
He then detailed a number of measures to accelerate renewable energy projects. A bill will be presented at a cabinet meeting next week.
“We need massive acceleration,” Macron said. “I want us to go at least twice as fast for renewable energy projects. …” Our neighbors have often managed to do more, better and, most importantly, faster. ”
Macron’s new strategy looks like a long-term response to the energy crisis, but it won’t help address short-term challenges. France and other European countries fear electricity shortages this winter as Russia stifled the low-cost natural gas supplies the continent has depended on for years to run factories, generate electricity and heat homes.
France’s energy strategy has long been based on the development of nuclear energy, based on imported uranium, which provides about 67% of French electricity, more than any other country.
Macron announced earlier this year plans to build six new nuclear reactors and extend the life of its existing nuclear power plants as part of the country’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.
But easing France’s dependence on global gas and oil also means increasing renewables, he said.
France had previously set a goal of increasing its renewable energy sources to 23% by 2020, but only managed to reach 19%. This leaves the country in 17th place in the European Union, below the average of 22% in the block of 27 countries, according to the latest statistics.
Despite thousands of kilometers (miles) of French coastline, only the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm with its 80 turbines has emerged so far. Macron has set a goal of building around 50 similar wind farms by 2050 in France.
It also hopes to multiply the amount of solar energy produced by 10 and double the power of onshore wind farms over the same period.
The new measures will aim to reduce delays in the construction and launch of offshore wind farms from 10-12 years to about six years and large solar farms from 6 to 3 years, Macron said.
The new bill will also aim to provide grid connections as soon as a new facility is ready, instead of a delay of up to three years.
Other planned measures include the construction of solar parks on vacant land along highways, railways and car parks.
Solar parks will also be encouraged on agricultural land under certain conditions, including keeping them small to preserve fields for the food industry.
The bill will have to secure money for local communities to see the local benefits of energy change, Macron said.
Macron added that he hopes to take “the same approach” for nuclear power, speeding up and simplifying procedures to build new reactors more quickly.
At present, around half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors, all managed by EDF, are closed for normal maintenance and, in some cases, to repair corrosion problems. The government said this month that EDF has pledged to restart them all by this winter.
The French government has warned that a worst-case scenario could lead to power outages in French homes, and officials have unveiled an “energy sobriety” plan aimed at a 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2024.
Sylvie Corbet reported from Paris.
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