Macron opens France’s first offshore wind farm amid Europe’s energy crisis

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President Emmanuel Macron was set to unveil a plan on Thursday to boost renewable energy in France, including offshore wind farms and solar, as the country lags behind most of its European neighbours.

The move comes amid a major energy crisis in Europe, exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine, as Macron wants the country to gain more independence in electricity production.

Macron boarded a boat on Thursday to visit France’s first offshore wind farm at the port of Saint-Nazaire in western France.

According to the French presidency, he would set out in a speech later Thursday a series of measures aimed at facilitating and accelerating renewable energy projects. A bill will be presented next week at a cabinet meeting.

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France’s energy strategy has long been based on developing nuclear energy – based on imported uranium – which supplies about 67% of France’s electricity, more than any other country.

Macron announced plans at the beginning of the year to build six new nuclear reactors and extend the life of its existing nuclear plants as part of the country’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

But easing France’s reliance on global gas and oil producers also means boosting renewable energy, he said.

France had previously set a target of increasing its share of energy from renewable sources to 23% by 2020, but only managed to reach 19%. That leaves the country 17th in the European Union, below the 22% average in the bloc of 27 countries, according to the latest statistics.

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Despite the thousands of kilometers (miles) of coastline of France, only the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm, with its 80 turbines, has been established so far.

Macron set a goal to build about 50 similar facilities in France by 2050.

He also hopes to multiply the amount of solar energy produced by 10 and double the capacity of onshore wind farms in the same period.

Macron’s new strategy comes as a long-term response to the energy crisis, but it won’t help address shorter-term challenges.

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France and other European countries fear electricity shortages this winter as Russia cut stocks of cheap natural gas on which the continent depended for years to run factories, generate electricity and heat homes.

Currently, about half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors, all operated by EDF, have been shut down for normal maintenance and, in some cases, to repair corrosion problems. The government said earlier this month that EDF committed to restarting them all this winter.

The government has warned that a worst-case scenario could lead to power cuts in French homes, and officials have presented an “energy austerity” plan aimed at a 10% reduction in energy consumption by 2024.

(TBEN)

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