A celebrity environmental campaigner, Nicolas Hulot, has been appointed as minister for energy and the environment in President Macron’s first cabinet. This unexpected step took the market by surprise last week, with EDF shares losing 7% on the announcement.France derives 75% of its electricity from 58 nuclear reactors, which are operated by EDF. While Hulot is known to be a pragmatist and to have good connections with the business community, he is a strong advocate for renewable generation and sustainability. In his new role, which Hulot said was “a new opportunity for action which I cannot ignore”, he hopes to encourage a move towards sustainable energy by transforming the tax system. Earlier this year France set its long-term climate action plan with a target of a 40% reduction in emissions by 2030 and a 75% reduction by 2050, both compared to a 1990 baseline. However, focus has been given to transport and the buildings sector because high levels of nuclear and hydro generation mean that energy only contributes to 12% of all greenhouse gases in France.
A separate policy, the Energy Transition Law, was introduced in 2005 to reduce reliance on nuclear generation in favour of renewables. The legislation sets a target to reduce the share of nuclear energy to 50% by 2025. Safety concerns have surrounded nuclear reactors in France, which were brought into focus in September 2016 when 22 out of 58 reactors were taken offline, causing price spikes across European power markets. During his campaign, Macron said he planned to keep the nuclear reduction target and to encourage the development of renewables, with the aim of doubling wind and solar PV capacity by 2022. This would be achieved through finance, encouraging private investment, and by simplifying the procedures for deploying renewables. Macron has also pledged to continue the ban on shale gas exploration in France. These steps will put France in a strong position to defend the Paris Agreement on an international stage, although it is early days for the new centrist government, which faces parliamentary elections next month.