Will we have enough electricity for everyone? In France, electron consumption will increase much faster than expected so far, to meet European climate objectives and the challenges of reindustrialization, says the operator of the high-voltage network RTE in a report published on Wednesday.
This acceleration in consumption will force the country to double its production of renewable energies by 2035, says RTE in this prospective analysis that should inform the public debate before the presentation in the coming months of the country's energy strategy by the government.
The operator expects annual electricity consumption to rise sharply, between 580 and 640 terawatt hours in 2035, while in 2021 it still expected consumption of 540 TWh in a so-called reference average scenario, and 585 TWh in the event of "deep reindustrialization" of the country. In 2022, the French consumed 460 TWh of electricity.
Compensating for the planned phase-out of gas and coal
The new forecasts include the upheavals that have occurred over the past two years: the publication of the European "Fit for 55" programme, which strengthens the obligations of European countries to reduce CO2 emissions (-55% compared to 1990) and the war in Ukraine. It highlighted the need for industrial sovereignty and a relocation of production to be carried out in tandem with the decarbonisation of these activities. Clearly, an urgent and massive need for electricity in factories to replace gas and coal.
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In fact, primary industries such as steel, fertilizers, cement or even chemicals, supported by public recovery plans, announce decarbonization investments involving massive use of electricity. It is a question of compensating for the planned abandonment of gas and coal in order to achieve the climate objectives of the Paris Agreement (COP21).
As a result, the growth of electricity consumption in France should exceed 10 TWh per year during the decade 2025-2035, a pace that "has not been reached since the 1980s," says RTE in its balance sheet.
The pace of growth "highlights the scale of the challenge facing the electricity system," insists RTE. It will be necessary to quickly produce more low-carbon electricity even though the new nuclear reactors announced by the government will not see the light of day before 2035.
'Ambitious, but doable'
"Achieving by 2035 a low-carbon electricity production of at least 600 TWh, and if possible 650 TWh or more so as to cover the high end of the range of electricity consumption prospects, seems ambitious (...) but feasible," reassures RTE. This will lead the country to produce "more renewables, and faster in the coming years," says Xavier Piechaczyk, president of RTE.
With the goal of reaching at least 250 TWh by 2035, compared to about 120 TWh today, a doubling of production, says the report. "By 2030, the increase in renewables will mainly involve onshore wind and solar," says RTE. Between 2030 and 2025, offshore wind can take over "provided that the France manages to massively allocate wind farms between now and 2025".
Finally, beyond 2035, the renewal of the nuclear fleet by EPR2 "can make it possible to continue the growth of production" of low-carbon electricity. To complete the energy equation, "we need efficiency, sobriety, nuclear production as available as possible and a lot of additional renewable energies," adds Xavier Piechaczyk.
Sobriety, and all forms of energy saving, presented as an option in the previous report of 2021, "is no longer an option, it is what is new," he adds. "Our objectives are getting closer and closer, so we have to act very quickly," adds Thomas Veyrenc, executive director of RTE. According to him, "aiming for less than 250 TWh of renewables in 2035 would be taking a big risk on the (climate) trajectory in the medium term".