July 29, 2021

six scenarios for achieving carbon neutrality in 2050

What could the French electric “mix” look like in 2050? How many wind turbines or nuclear reactors will be needed to achieve carbon neutrality, as the country has committed to under the Paris climate agreement? The manager of the Electricity Transmission Network (RTE) takes a further step in the definition of “energy futures” by publishing, Tuesday June 8, the results of the public consultation on the subject as well as the six production scenarios of electricity retained – against eight initially envisaged.

At the request of the government, RTE launched, in 2019, a vast study on the evolution of the electricity system, which could supply 60% of final energy consumption in 2050 (against a quarter today), due to electrification of many uses. At the end of modeling and analysis work of unprecedented scale, the company will detail, in the fall, the technical conditions, but also the cost, the environmental footprint and the impact on the lifestyles of different “mix” of electricity production.

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The characteristics of these scenarios were consolidated during the consultation conducted from January to March, to which 4,000 organizations and individuals contributed. They represent as many possible trajectories, ranging from a “100% renewable energy” option to another with another 50% nuclear. While the French political debate is extremely polarized between supporters of the atom and defenders of wind and solar power, the electricity manager defends a position of neutrality. “We are not taking sides with one technology or another, we insist at RTE. We are neither pro nor anti-wind, neither pro nor anti-nuclear. The objective is to clarify the various choices and to propose solutions. ”

A fleet of 56 nuclear reactors

Currently, the 56 nuclear reactors provide more than 70% of electricity production. But this park, mainly in service between the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1990s, will largely reach the end of its life by 2060. If no decision should be taken, by the end of the five-year term, with regard to new installations, in May EDF submitted its dossier to the government for the construction of six new-generation EPR-type reactors.

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In the scenarios studied by RTE, nuclear represents a maximum of 50% of the electricity “mix” in 2050. To achieve this, the lifespan of certain current reactors would have to be extended beyond 60 years, with 14 EPRs being commissioned and that small modular reactors (SMRs) be built. “This 50% threshold is not a bias, it is what the nuclear industry considers a possible development”, says RTE.

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