Background: Learning from France during the energy crisis – is that possible?

Background: Learning from France during the energy crisis – is that possible?

Learning from France during the energy crisis – is that possible?

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron at the state reception in Berlin.  Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa

Chancellor Olaf Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron at the state reception in Berlin. photo

© Fabian Sommer/dpa

The energy crisis hits Germany and France equally – Paris is now focusing on the expansion of nuclear power and renewables, and is introducing more liquid gas. Where can Germany learn from its neighbors?

Although France and Germany have long differed on energy issues, both are in a bind this winter. If there is enough gas and enough electricity, that is the concern on both sides of the Rhine. In addition to Russia’s war against Ukraine, problems with nuclear power plants are also the reason for French supply bottlenecks, against which plans are now being hastily made in Paris. Can Germany learn something from the French?

Priority nuclear power

France’s priority for nuclear energy is currently not an option for Germany, and the nuclear phase-out is being adhered to. President Emmanuel Macron is promising a “renaissance of French nuclear power” in France. Six new nuclear power plants are to be built and the construction of eight further power plants is to be examined.

A number of the 56 existing nuclear power plants are causing the French real problems. At times, half of the piles were taken off the grid due to maintenance and possible corrosion damage. And for the construction of the reactor in Flamanville, which started in 2007, another delay and additional costs have just been announced.

Make speed with renewables

Although France lags behind Germany in the use of renewable energies, Macron sees wind and solar energy as the second pillar of energy supply and is focusing on expansion. Electricity generation from renewable energy sources is to be doubled by 2030 and further increased by 2050.

As in Germany, however, new projects still take too much time. In order to implement renewable projects twice as fast, Macron now wants to speed up procedures and adapt laws – maybe a role model?

Find space for turning

In order to find space for the expansion of renewables, France relies on creativity. Rooftops of large supermarkets have already been discussed for solar systems. It is also envisaged to use land along motorways and abandoned railway facilities for this purpose.

Coal exit almost done

When it comes to phasing out coal, France has almost done its homework. With the exception of one reserve power plant, all coal-fired power plants should now be closed. In view of the power shortage, however, the “Emile Huchet” power plant in Saint-Avold near Saarbrücken, which was the penultimate one to go offline in March, was fired up again in the winter. It remains in operation for the time being.

More LPG

Natural gas from Russia plays a minor role for France. Nevertheless, the country, like Germany, is increasingly relying on the import of liquid gas, which has already increased enormously. The capacities of an LNG terminal near Marseille are currently being expanded. Additional capacities are also to be created in the north near Dunkirk and Le Havre.

In addition, the French energy group Total has secured important shares in what it claims to be the world’s largest liquefied gas project in Qatar, thereby noticeably increasing its liquefied gas capacity.

Smart in the crisis

In France, turning off hot water boilers at times of the day when power consumption is high to save energy has turned out to be a successful measure. For two and a half months, the boilers of 4.3 million customers have not heated up hot water between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. Since there is a large supply of hot water in the boiler, this usually does not mean that there will be no hot water at that time.

New water is then only heated the following night when electricity consumption is low. This is made possible by the “Linky” automatic electricity meter, which not only transmits consumption data but also accepts remote commands.

energy price cap

It’s also easy if you want to relieve the population in the crisis. France will largely protect households against skyrocketing electricity and gas bills in the coming year. The increase in gas tariffs will be limited to 15 percent from January and that of electricity tariffs will also be limited to 15 percent from February.

More than a year ago, France decided to cap electricity and gas tariffs for consumers for the first time, so the additional costs for consumers have so far been very limited. As a result, France has comparatively low inflation, which is offset by double-digit government spending in the billions.


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