France is in the forefront of clean energy production. The country manages to sustain its demand for electricity by producing around 75% of it through nuclear plants, the highest share in the world of the total energy generation. During the last five years, the total production of energy has remained relatively stable, with fossil energy showing minor shift down. Every day, the production of wind energy and the production of solar energy follow opposite direction, with wind energy being produced more at nights.

France is number two in the world in producing nuclear energy, right behind the U.S. and ahead of Russia and China. If comparison were in terms of nuclear share on the total domestic electricity generation, France has by far the highest percentage portion of any country in the world. However has the total energy consumption increased? What are the main sources of energy in France and how have their portions changed across time?

In our last report we inspected energy consumption in France and found that electricity consumption has increased during the past five years. Around 75% of electricity comes from nuclear energy, due to a long-standing policy based on energy security. In 2015, 15% of electricity came from renewable energy, and therefore 90% non-fossil, non-CO2-emitting energy. Government policy is to reduce nuclear to 50% by 2035, in an effort to increase renewable energy portion.

French production of energy is mainly controlled from ENGIE and EDF, the two largest producers, and some smaller providers that are mainly focused on renewable energy. ENGIE and EDF were state-owned until late 2006 and the government has a large say in their management. Respectively, it currently owns more than 30% of ENGIE’s capital and 85.3% of EDF’s capital.

Interestingly, due to high regulation and governmental intervention in the market, energy efficiency has increased in the past yeas and total production per capita has slowed down. According to the International Energy Agency, the production of primary and secondary oil has decreased by 25% since 2005. As of 2014, natural gas production has experiences a sharp fall and its levels are now incomparable to what they were.

France produces more energy than it consumes. The figure below shows that France consumes almost 1.5 billion MW a year while it produces more than 2 billion MW. However, in our consumption estimates only electricity and gas are calculated.

If we zoom in the production part, fossil and nuclear energy account for the highest portion. There seems to be little variation with the production of these two energy sources. In 2016, nuclear energy declined by almost 8% and remained at those levels ever since.

Clean energy production has showed substantial increase since 2013. In 2018, wind energy has almost doubled and solar energy more than doubled since 2013. This shows the continuous efforts of the French government to move towards clean sources by 2040.

Moving forward to monthly volatility:

During winter, while temperatures decrease and demand for energy increases, the production of energy follows along. However, the overall total production shows less volatility than consumption. In the summer, the total production decreases with 35% while consumption by about 50% in the case of electricity, and 80% in the case of gas.

Zooming in, we see the seasonal fluctuation of solar energy and that of wind. As expected, the highest production of wind is in the stormy season of winter, and the highest production of solar energy is during sunny summer.

Production is higher during daily hours but the difference is not substantial with the night time production. The gap between day and night total production is only 15%.  

Solar energy shows an inverse U-shaped distribution throughout the day with the most energy being produced during light hours. During night time, solar panels require energy stored from during day time as their energy production reaches negative levels. The production of wind energy is highest during night time. 

Download the full report: France: Energy production mix is changing.

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