The French energy market today is characterised by a high reliance on nuclear-sourced electricity. The total installed capacity as at end 2015 was 129GW, comprising 63GW of nuclear capacity and 40GW of capacity from renewables, predominantly hydroelectric. Total installed wind capacity represented just 7% of installed capacity while solar energy accounted for 3% of total French capacity.
France’s total net electricity production in 2015 was 546TWh for a total domestic consumption of 475TWh. 76% of the total production was derived from nuclear power sources and 19% from renewable sources. Of these renewable resources hydroelectric power accounted for 11% of total net production, wind for 4% and solar under 2%.
The French government has set a target of reducing its reliance on nuclear energy to 50% of the overall electricity mix by 2025. In parallel with its nuclear power objectives France has set ambitious targets for increasing its electricity supply from renewable resources. To fulfil its European climate change objectives, France has set a target to increase the share of renewable energy sources in total electricity production to 27% by 2020, and 40% by 2030.
France is the birthplace of the modern tidal energy industry. Extensive research undertaken over three decades from the 1940s ultimately led to the construction of the world’s first tidal energy power plant on the estuary of the Rance River in Brittany which entered service in 1966.
The Rance power station, a tidal barrage with bi-directional generation capability, is still in operation today, generating the cheapest electricity in France, with the original machinery continuing to perform exceptionally well in a marine environment. The facility has also become a major tourist attraction, with 70,000 visitors each year.