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France To Cap Nuclear Reliance, Move To Renewables

The French government is proposing legislation that would cap its use of nuclear power at current level of 63.2 gigawatts a year and instead shift its reliance to renewables, Energy Minister Segolene Royale said June 18.

During his successful campaign for president in 2012, Francois Hollande promised to reduce reliance on nuclear energy to 50 percent by 2025 from today’s 75 percent reliance, which is the largest proportion of any country.

But Holland’s government has met resistance over how his plans could affect jobs and local economies if his government closes some nuclear plants. At the same time, his Socialist government was under pressure from environmental groups to increase the nation’s reliance on renewables.

At a news conference in Paris, Royale announced a compromise bill under which only one nuclear plant would be threatened, the Fessenheim reactor in eastern France. The future of other such plants, she said, would be decided under a five-year energy program to be announced at some time in the future.

Royale is seen as eager to avoid public focus on France’s successful reliance on nuclear energy so far in order to insure that the French legislature will pass the measure quickly. “We won't exit nuclear energy, that's not the choice we're making,” she said. “It is thanks to nuclear energy that we can carry out this energy transition in an untroubled way.”

Related Article: Environmentalists And Nuclear: Not Such Strange Bedfellows

Instead, her ministry is stressing reducing the country’s still expensive reliance on imported oil and gas, which now cost France $94 billion a year, nearly all of its trade deficit.

As a result, an important part of the proposal would be to increase investment in offshore wind farms, which so far are expected to generate 3,000 megawatts of electricity by 2020, as much as the output from four nuclear plants. It also would kick start the country’s sluggish solar power industry, particularly in the sunny south of France.

There also would be incentives for conservation, including a 30 percent tax reduction for insulating homes and commercial buildings, and helping spur growth in the use of electric cars by setting up vehicle recharging stations around the country by 2030. There also would be a subsidy for individuals trading in their diesel cars for electric vehicles.

By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com



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