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France risks power price shock unless nuclear phase-out slowed: commission


A French parliamentary commission has called on the government to delay its planned phase-out of nuclear power and stagger it over several decades, as part of its energy transition to promote green energy.

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A report published Wednesday by OPECST, a scientific commission of senators and MPs from the upper and lower houses of Parliament, said France risks being exposed to a power price shock if it pursues a speedy phase-out of nuclear power and there is insufficient replacement through renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.

Socialist president Francois Hollande has pledged to reduce the share of nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025, starting with the shutdown of the two oldest reactors at Fessenheim by the end of 2016. Full details of the energy transition -- including targets for specific renewable energies -- are yet to be announced by the government and energy Minister Philippe Martin warned Wednesday that laws enacting the energy transition and the start of the nuclear phase-out would not be presented to Parliament until 2014. A parliamentary vote might not take place until the end of 2014, he said.

In its report, OPECST called for a "reasonable timeframe" for France's energy transition, including delaying the start of the phase-out of nuclear power to 2030, allowing for costs of renewable energies and energy storage to fall as technology matures, and enough time to implement sufficient energy-saving measures.

The commission suggested a target of 50% reduction in nuclear capacity by 2050.

"Before going ahead with the dismantling of our [nuclear] energy generation assets, we must make sure that the promises in terms of energy efficiency measures are enacted, and that alternative renewable energy resources are working in their an equivalent quality of service, and without any subsidies," the report said.

OPECST also said the government should be implementing more measures to promote innovation when it introduces its energy transition laws next year, to boost industry.

"If we are not one of the leaders in (new) technologies, such as energy storage, we will get no economic benefit," said Jean-Yves Le Deaut, Socialist MP and co-author of the report.

--Robin Sayles,
--Edited by Maurice Geller,