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France's new environment minister says energy plan due end-October

London — France's new environment and energy minister Francois de Rugy Wednesday said the national energy roadmap for the coming decade would be presented by the end of October.

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In his first interview following his appointment Tuesday, the new minister told France Inter he would "not deviate from the path of ecological transformation." "We will do what has never been done before," de Rugy said, referring to the multi-annual energy plans (PPE) but without providing details.

"I will meet everyone and listen to the constraints of reality. But I will not deviate from the path of the ecological transformation," de Rugy said on his twitter account following the interview.

De Rugy was a member of the Green Party before joining President Emmanuel Macron's LREM party last year. He has been acting as speaker of the National Assembly.

Questioned about incumbent power utility EDF's lobbying and influence on energy policy, the minister noted the utility was an 85% state-owned public enterprise with parliament responsible for policy.

He referred to renewables expansion and especially offshore wind as a key challenge for EDF.

De Rugy has been a lawmaker for the Nantes region on the French Atlantic coast since 2007. The region has developed into a key hub for French offshore wind, with EDF's Saint-Nazaire project expected to be France's first large offshore wind farm to enter operation by 2021.

France's wind energy lobby FEE Wednesday appealed to the minister to confirm state support for offshore wind projects, described as the "Achilles' heel" of the country's renewable energy program.

Pragmatist with green credentials According to state broadcaster France24, de Rugy is known as a pragmatist who backed Macron's decision last year to delay the planned reduction of nuclear in the French power mix.

However before joining Macron's LREM, de Rugy campaigned for a full exit from nuclear by 2040 and 100% renewables by 2050.

Rugy is considered more of the career politician and a safe choice by Macron, according to a note by analysts at Royal Bank of Canada Wednesday.

De Rugy replaces Nicolas Hulot, a former environmental activist and the most popular minister in the Macron administration, who abruptly resigned last week in a live radio interview blaming lack of support from the government.

Speaking to France Inter last Tuesday, Hulot said he had failed to persuade the government of the economic and technical "madness" of persisting with nuclear energy, which he said was "useless...economically and technically." France last year delayed the aim of reducing the share of nuclear energy to 50% of national power production by 2025, which was made law in 2015 with the government concluding a consultation on the new PPEs for 2018-2023 and 2024-2028 in July and first guidelines expected due to be published this summer.

Before the summer break, Hulot called for the PPEs to include a precise nuclear reactor closure schedule, which would be made possible by a massive expansion of renewables.

De Rugy did not give any indication when the 50% nuclear cut target would be achieved, with many observers agreeing that this would be unlikely before the 2030s.

De Rugy will retain Hulot's team of three junior ministers: energy minister Sebastion Lecornu, ecology transition and solidarity minister Brune Poirson and transport minister Elisabeth Borne.

--Andreas Franke, andreas.franke@spglobal.com

--Edited by Jonathan Dart, newsdesk@spglobal.com