Macron's Smart Solar Move
(Autonomy, 25 Oct 2023) Whenever I take the train from Paris to Munich, I am always struck by how few solar panels there are in France compared to Germany. Despite having worse weather conditions, Germany had a cumulative solar photovoltaic capacity of 67 gigawatts compared to France’s 16.5 gigawatts (end of 2022).
As with most things in the sustainability space the difference is due to legislation. In the early 2000s the Germans gave generous subsidies for individuals and businesses to install solar. France has recently inked a new law that will radically change its photovoltaic uptake.
French President Emmanuel Macron (Belfort speech early 2022) stated that solar PV production should be increased tenfold to over 100 gigawatts (GW). This year, parliament passed a new law that makes it compulsory for parking lots of more than 1,500 m2 to have half their surface area covered in solar. According to an analysis by the Washington Post, this will result in an installed capacity of between 6.75 gigawatts and 11.25 gigawatts, at a cost of up to $14.6 billion.
This is an impressive amount of power. France’s 56 nuclear power plants average 1 gigawatt each. This means that rooftop solar could replace an equivalent of 8 nuclear power stations (on a sunny day) at no cost to the government. France’s latest nuclear reactor in Flamanville is 10 years behind schedule and will have cost €13,2 billion by the time it is operational next year. Nuclear is a great clean source of energy but has one weakness in a warming world. In recent summers, EDF has had to power down its reactors along the Rhone and Garonne rivers because drought conditions resulted in insufficient water to cool the reactors without impacting aquatic life in the river.