A lack of electricity from 2035? This is what the Court of Auditors mentions in its report of March 21, 2023 on the adaptation of nuclear power plants to global warming, reported by Ouest-France. According to this report, if the EDF reactors are shut down in 40-50 years, as planned, the energy capacity of the French fleet would drop drastically. It would fall to less than 20 gigawatts in 2035 from a current capacity of 61 gigawatts: a colossal loss.

Currently, the French nuclear fleet provides almost three quarters of the national electricity. In the 2000s, out of an annual electricity production of 530 terawatt hours, nuclear produced more than 400. In 2022, due to technical difficulties, the level dropped to 279 terawatt hours. A decline that does not bode well for the years to come.

The government and EDF want the nuclear reactors that entered service between 1978 and 1999 to be able to operate for another sixty years. But this decision depends solely on the Nuclear Safety Authority, which refuses to be influenced by a potential loss of energy security.

Pending the gradual replacement of the nuclear fleet, how will France produce the electricity it needs? Will it be able to produce enough energy in 2035?

The manager of the high voltage electricity network in France (RTE) has published a document entitled “Provisional balance sheet 2035”. In it, RTE estimates that, by 2035, we will witness a sharp increase in demand for electricity.

Still according to this report, the energy mix would evolve in 2035 to favor low-carbon energies, therefore electricity. For Thomas Veyrenc, executive director in charge of strategy at RTE, “electricity would represent around 55% of final energy consumption in 2050, compared to 27% today” (comments reported by Ouest-France).

A national electricity consumption of 500 terawatt hours in 2035 would correspond to a very sober scenario. In reality, we should expect energy needs of between 540 and 620 terawatt hours in 2035. How do you meet this demand for electricity with a struggling supply? Where to find the missing 140 to 260 terawatt hours?

“No nuclear reactor outside the Flamanville EPR is likely to enter service before 2035”, recalls Thomas Veyrenc, executive director in charge of strategy at RTE, in Ouest-France. “When we say that we will not be able to achieve our climate objectives without developing renewable energies, it is not a political posture, it is the result of the equations.”

In 2022, renewable energy produced 116.9 terawatt hours, thanks to hydroelectric dams, wind, solar and power plants powered by renewable fuels. It therefore still lacks 24 to 144 terawatt hours to compensate for the current nuclear energy production. This corresponds to the equivalent of 15 to 90 offshore wind farms such as that of Saint-Nazaire, which opened in November 2022. Other wind farms should see the light of day, but this will not be enough to ensure the energy security expected in 2035.

France has lagged behind in establishing an energy mix based more largely on renewable energies. French wind and solar farms are only half of those in Britain and only a fifth of those in Germany. What will it be in 2035?