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The French wind turbine is blocked. A deliberate strategy to favour nuclear power?

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The number of authorized wind turbines has collapsed. For France, which wants to present itself as a climate champion, the situation is becoming embarrassing. All the more so as the persistent delay in approving new projects is fuelling speculation that the French government has an ulterior motive for curbing the expansion of wind power: that of favouring the nuclear industry.
 
Sccording to the press agency EuractivIn December 2017, the Conseil d'État, France's highest administrative court, repealed a decree giving regional prefects the responsibility for granting the environmental permits required for the construction of wind farms. Since then, no one has been able to issue them. « The question of the competent authority to issue permits for the installation of onshore wind farms in France has been pending for more than a year. There are therefore no new permits and no new projects can be developed. ", regrets Giles Dickson, CEO of the association of companies WindEurope. " The government does not decide to promulgate the decree that would re-establish a competent authority and restart the machine. "he adds.
 
The Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition admits that the number of authorized wind turbine projects fell by 22 % between 2017 and 2018. « In 2018, 103 wind farms were authorized for an aggregate installed capacity of 1,510 MW "said to Euractiv the cabinet of the Ministry of Ecology, François de Rugy.
 
It currently takes six to eight years to complete a new wind project in France, double the European average, according to WindEurope. In its Multiannual Energy Programme, presented in November, France set itself the target of installing 35 GW of onshore wind turbine capacity by 2028, compared to the current 14 GW. Objectives which will remain a dead letter if the blockage persists, warns Giles Dickson. « We are already seeing the number of projects dry up and last year's auction did not bring in as many investment projects as we would have liked. If France is serious about implementing its national climate and energy strategy, the government must urgently address this problem. "he concludes. The second onshore wind auction in France in 2018 was a flop, awarding only the equivalent of 118 MW of projects, compared to 500 proposed, according to WindEurope.
 

Disaster scenario

And the situation is even more problematic for offshore wind energy. Since France committed itself in 2012 to building the country's first experimental wind farm off the coast of Brittany, not a single project has seen the light of day. The experimental farm has not been finalised, as the authorities realised that the expected construction costs are now well above competitive market prices.
 
Worse still, Paris has reduced its targets to 5 GW by 2028, despite a proposal by local authorities and the wind industry to build 10 GW of capacity by that date. The announcement, made in November in the run-up to the COP in Katowice, was described as "...a major step forward in the development of wind energy...". horror story "by the French renewable energy union.

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Wind vs. Nuclear

The persistent delay in approving new projects is fuelling speculation that the French government has an ulterior motive for curbing wind power expansion: that of favouring the nuclear industry.
 
Indeed, the Multi-annual energy programming The government's forecast for electricity demand is expected to increase in the medium term. A debatable scenario: the system operator foresees at best a stagnation of demand. On the other hand, this hypothetical increase is in line with the government's plan to develop nuclear power: only an increase in electricity demand can justify the construction of new power plants. In his global strategy for the energy transition, President Emmanuel Macron defends "at the same time" the development of renewable energies and the conservation, in the energy mix, of 50 % of nuclear power by 2035.

READ IN UP' : Ecological transition to Macron: insufficient and dusty?

At the end of August last year, a report commissioned by the Ministry of Ecology, then headed by Nicolas Hulot on the one hand and by Bercy on the other, had leaked. The daily Les Echos revealed that the report recommended the construction of six EPR reactors from 2025. The construction of a first EPR would start in 2025 for an entry into service in 2035, followed by the construction of a second reactor two years after the first, and so on to build the first six reactors. This also corresponds to the virtual "order book" demanded by the Société française de n'énergie nucléaire (SFEN) in exchange for the promise to lower the cost of building the EPRs by 30%.
 
Building new EPRs would be tantamount to endorsing the fact that the 50% share of nuclear power in the energy mix would be a sustainable floor, rather than the first step in a nuclear phase-out called for by environmentalists. « Even if the implementation of its recommendations were only partial, it would be a death sentence for the energy transition, diverting colossal sums of money away from alternative energy sources and forcing the perpetuation of the nuclear risk. "said the NGO to AFP. Phasing out nuclear power.
 
And this would probably not be the best signal to renewable energy players to encourage massive investment. « We are told that nuclear reactors should be built simply to keep technology or know-how, but clearly there is no energy argument. "Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France told AFP in an indignant voice. « If we don't make room on the grid for renewable energy, there's no way it's going to be ".
 

Back in grace?

This question comes in a context that puts nuclear power back in the spotlight and presents it as the only serious alternative to the crisis of climate change. The latest IPCC report noted that in the face of rapid climate degradation, the nuclear solution is the one that would make it possible to achieve the world's CO2 emission reduction targets most rapidly. In a post Recently, UP' Magazine reported on the work of two British experts who make a strong case for massive investment in nuclear energy.
 
It is also the turn of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, to make his contribution to the development of a pragmatic nuclear power. In his public letter of December 29, 2018 He writes that " the only way to avoid the worst-case scenarios of climate change is to make clean energy breakthroughs ». He goes on to say: " Solar and wind power are intermittent sources of energy, and we are unlikely to have cheap batteries that can store enough energy when the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. ".
He said, "I'm not sure... Nuclear power is ideal for tackling climate change, as it is the only carbon-free, 24-hour-a-day, controllable source of energy ".
 
Will these arguments be enough to transform opinion on nuclear power, its dangers and potential pollution? The French government is not seeking to enter into this debate - it has others to deal with at the moment. But by hindering the development of renewable energies through administrative guerrilla methods, is it creating a form of fait accompli that would lead us to resolve to conceive of nuclear power as the only viable solution to the climate risk? A strategy of decay to make people accept what is still for many unacceptable.
 
Sources: Euractiv, AFP
 

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