Rhein on Energy and Climate

In a 120-page report published April 8th the French Agency for Environment and Energy concludes that by 2050 France might be able to cover all its electricity needs from photovoltaic and wind energies.

For a country that has drawn three quarters of its power supply from nuclear reactors and was not renowned for its reliance on renewable sources this report constitutes a sort of revolution.

Eight months before the next Climate Conference it could not have been more timely.

Indeed, it demonstrate that the international community can still win the fight against climate change, provided governments start acting now.

The technologies are available globally, including power storage to cope with intermittency. The necessary investments are substantial – for France € 50 billion annually – but not excessive.

There are two notches:

  • Wholesale electricity prices will have to go up substantially, to € 120/MWh. But by the middle of the century the era of low energy prices will be over anyhow, due to the huge increase of demand in emergent countries and the progressive scarcity of fossil fuels. Governments will have to prepare for this eventuality by abolishing all subsidies on fossil energies and introducing effective carbon tax regimes.
  • Citizens will have to get used to roofs covered with solar panels,wind parks and high-tension transmission lines. An environmentally friendly technology will not necessarily be more beautiful.

Two practical recommendations:

  • The French government should make the report rapidly available to all the governments which will be present at the Paris Conference.
  • The EU Commission should invite all member states to undertake a similar exercise and to prepare national strategies for renewable energies.

Brussels 11.04. 2015 Eberhard Rhein

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