France could reach net-zero emissions by 2050 if it continues to keep a large nuclear generation fleet in the long term and develop significantly renewable energy sources, the operator of the French grid, RTE, said in a report on Monday on the pathways to reaching carbon neutrality.
Nuclear power generates most of France’s electricity. France currently gets more than 70 percent of its total electricity from nuclear power generation and is a major exporter of electricity, including to the UK.
France cannot meet its goals by nuclear energy alone, or by renewables only, the grid operator said. The country will need 14 new nuclear reactors and a lot more renewable energy developments if it is to reach net-zero by 2050 at the cheapest cost, it added.
Building more nuclear reactors would be feasible if access to financing for nuclear power doesn’t differ from the ease of funding for other low-carbon technologies, the French grid operator said.
Earlier this month, French President Emmanuel Macron said that France aimed to become a leader in green hydrogen production and reinvent nuclear power by building a small modular reactor by 2030 as part of a wider $34.6 billion (30 billion euro) plan to decarbonize industry and slash emissions.
France’s bet on nuclear power—unlike Germany’s decision to phase out all nuclear plants after the Fukushima disaster—has been vindicated in recent weeks as Europe’s natural gas and power prices hit record highs. The gas and electricity crisis clashed with the net-zero pledges of the European Union and the United Kingdom as some utilities were forced to fire up mothballed coal plants as natural gas prices surged.
France also led a group of EU member states, including Finland and several central and eastern European countries, who pushed earlier this week for including nuclear energy in the upcoming green investment rules of the European Union.
“To win the climate battle, we need nuclear power,” say the EU member states led by France.
This push has divided Europe, and the EU is reportedly delaying a decision on how to deal with nuclear energy, as well as natural gas, in upcoming legislation about which types of energy would classify as eligible for “green financing.”