Over the last 2-3 decades, the international community has come to associate “successful development of nuclear energy” with France. The world leader in terms of installed power is, of course, the USA (99.2 GW compared to 63.1 GW in France), but the share of nuclear power there is only about 20% of the total output. France, in its turn, is the indisputable world leader in terms of the share of nuclear power in the total power balance of the country – 77%, and it plays the role of the leading exporter of electricity in the EU.
There are 19 nuclear power plants with 58 nuclear reactors operating in the country.
Rapidly developing since the oil crisis of the 1970s (oil prices quadrupled in 1973, and by the start of 1981, increased 12 times in total – from 3.22 to 38.85 US dollars per barrel), French nuclear energy formed into a successful sector of the energy industry and employed hundreds of thousands of people.
Recently, however, major changes in the energy sector are observed: the country has launched a programme of reduction of the use of atomic energy and transition to “100% of electricity from RES”.
In addition to the EU's common policies towards strengthening the development of renewable energy sources, this transition has been facilitated by many factors. After the catastrophic events of 2011 in the “Fukushima-1” NPP (which, by the way, as well as some of the French nuclear power plants, was built in the 1970s and was “outmoded” at the time of the accident), France has conducted a re-evaluation of the status of its power plants. Many nuclear power plants are in need of renovation and replacement of units, and transition to safer and more efficient reactors of class "3+" and "4" (with a minimum creation of radioactive waste and maximum safety) requires significant financial resources. The construction, as well as modernization, of just one nuclear power plant unit is estimated at several billion euros.
Beginning from 2012, after François Hollande came to power, France is steadily moving to reduce the share of nuclear power in the total electricity generation. The government plans to reduce the share of the nuclear sector to 50% only by 2025, as they face active resistance from the population employed in this sector, which causes additional difficulties to this task.
France has recognized the high potential of wind power for the solution of the tasks in hand. In 2014 France identified and eliminated many of the barriers to wind power development, for example, the requirement to install a minimum of five wind turbines in a wind farm. And in 2015 the law on “energy transition” was introduced, which abolished the rigid zoning of territories for RES and simplified the process of obtaining the necessary permits. The law clearly defined the priorities of the transition to cleaner energy production, provided a number of incentives for the development of RES.
It is expected that, with the proper legal basis, wind energy will become the cheapest way to produce electricity. Incentives have also provided for the development of wind power in the entire country of France, and not only in the shoreland or outside the country (offshore): different levels of tariffs have been introduced that allow wind farms to achieve economic efficiency at sites with lower wind potential.
In 2015 (according to the World Wind Energy Association, WWEA) the total installed capacity of wind power in France surpassed the mark of 10 GW:
By attaching particular importance to the programme of transition from atomic to renewable energy, The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) has voiced a new ambitious plan of “100% of electricity from RES by 2050”.
The modern France, where wind turbines are now installed even on the Eiffel Tower, will gradually become seen as a country that widely uses the “green energy”.