France has lost its independence and electricity sovereignty, a victim of the ecological transition launched by François Hollande between 2012 and 2017 and the ambiguous immobility of Emmanuel Macron, who began by supporting that project before taking a late nuclear turn. During the last eleven months, the country has been forced to import electricity for 213 days. Historical novelty. For several decades, the French state was an exporter, thanks to its park of nuclear power plants, producing 75% of the energy consumed in France. Louis Gallois, one of the great employers of the French state, former president of Airbus and the National Railway Network, among other command posts in the national industry, comments on the loss of electrical sovereignty in this way: «Historically, for many decades , France was an exporter of electricity, thanks to the nuclear power plant plan conceived by General De Gaulle, confirmed and modernized by his successors, Giscard, Mitterrand, Chirac and Sarkozy». “This year, for the first time – continues Gallois – France is forced to import electricity produced by other countries with gas and carbon plants, such as Germany. In the middle of this month of November, 24 of the 57 nuclear power plants were stopped, victims of relative abandonment and lack of maintenance that caused corrosion problems in some reactors. To make matters worse, the Energy Programming law approved two years ago by the Government of President Macron, announcing the closure of 14 reactors, is still in force… The war in Ukraine has aggravated all these problems«. Related news standard Yes Berlin-Paris diplomatic airlift to redirect the relationship between the two allies Rosalía Sánchez Germany sends several ministers to France to put an end to the disagreements caused by the war in Ukraine Nicolas Goldberg, an expert on energy issues at Columbus Consulting, analyzes the risks of the loss of electrical independence in this way: «Until 2021, the balance of electricity production and consumption was correct. Since then, the problem has worsened. The closure of some power plants and the lack of maintenance aggravated the corrosion problems. If the nuclear park had not been paralyzed, France would be an exporter and would earn a lot of money. Converted into an importer of electricity, it finds itself in a situation of dependency that threatens the security of supplies. ‘Ecological’ gestures When and how did the process that has caused this problem in a strategic area begin? Between 1958 and 2007, the park of nuclear power plants conceived by De Gaulle, modernized by his successors, allowed France to be the first world power in terms of civil atomic energy. Between 2007 and 2012, Sarkozy was a staunch supporter of nuclear power, with some ‘green’ gestures slowing modernisation. Between 2012 and 2017, Hollande launched his ambitious ecological transition project: the end of electrical independence was beginning. Hollande, president, and Ségolène Royal, his ex and mother of his children, Minister of Ecology, launched decisions with these objectives: reduce the production of electricity of nuclear origin from 75 to 50%; close twelve nuclear power plants; downward revision of the entire park of power plants, and the creation of 100,000 ecological jobs. Even applied late, these projects had immediate effects. Unemployment continued to grow. The nuclear park entertainment suffered delays that have worsened over time. The closure of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant began, which was finally completed by Macron in June 2020. Former Economy Minister under Hollande, elected president for the first time in 2017, Emmanuel Macron began by adopting a doubly ambiguous position: assuming the project of ecological transition conceived by Hollande, but doubting the inherited calendar. Modified calendar At the beginning of 2020, the Macron Government’s Multiannual Energy Plan (PPE), with Édouard Philippe as Prime Minister, confirmed, by modifying the calendar, the major decisions of the ecological transition conceived by Hollande: closing 14 reactors and reducing to 50% consumption of electricity of nuclear origin. The great global health crisis of Covid, throughout 2021, also exposed immense energy problems. And Macron did a 180 degree turn. In February of this year, in Belfort, in eastern France, at the General Electric factory, the French president unexpectedly announced the relaunch of France’s nuclear energy program: extension of the reactors and nuclear power plants in operation and construction of six New type nuclear reactors. The war in Ukraine and the current energy crisis have confirmed to Macron his well-founded – albeit belated – nuclear turn. The reform and restoration of the nuclear park, bogged down and partially damaged, and the construction of six reactors and nuclear power plants will take time. Meanwhile, France runs the risks linked to the loss of its electrical independence, threatening its industrial sovereignty.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism