France is making impressive strides in the domain of clean energy, with around 85% of its electricity supply coming from low-carbon sources. The country's robust nuclear power program has been instrumental in this, providing nearly two-thirds of the total electricity generated. Hydropower, wind and solar energy are also important contributors, making up approximately 10%, close to 8% and a little over 4% of the overall share respectively. Yet, nearly 12% of energy is derived from fossil fuels, with gas making up the bulk, followed by a minimal contribution from coal and almost nil from other sources. While the majority of power is clean, sectors like transport, heating, and industry haven't been fully electrified in France. This poses the next challenge as electrifying these areas will necessitate a further increase in electricity production.
In order to augment the generation of low-carbon electricity, France could consider extending its current nuclear power capacity, given its existing success with this energy form. Additionally, lessons could be learnt from international examples. Northern European nations such as Denmark, Sweden and Ireland are reaping substantial benefits from wind power, generating between 258 and 369 watts per person. Also noteworthy is the success of Australia and the Netherlands with solar power, generating impressive yields of 147 and 115 watts per person respectively. Emulating these models could drive even more substantial growth in France's low-carbon energy production.
Tracing the history of low-carbon electricity in France, the late 1970s saw an expansion in hydropower with 27.8 TWh added in 1977. This was followed by a remarkable surge in nuclear power generation from the early 1980s. From 1980 to 1985, nuclear power increased on an annual basis, peaking in 1984 with an additional 47 TWh. The 1990s experienced a similar growth trajectory in nuclear energy, barring a few years. However, there were significant declines in nuclear power generation in 2009, 2016 and most severely in 2022 with a drop of 82.2 TWh. The most recent years have conveyed a stark warning that France's power sector needs to diversify further and lean on other low-carbon energy sources like wind and solar alongside nuclear power to ensure a stable and sustainable energy supply.