Prime Minister Theresa May and President Emmanuel Macron held a summit in the UK last week with the aim of strengthening UK-France relations. Included in the many subjects on the agenda were action on climate change and the development of civil nuclear energy. A seminar on bilateral cooperation on civil nuclear energy was held in the same week at which both countries marked their support for increasing commercial and research collaboration, as well as nuclear decommissioning.
Another focus of the summit was on technology and innovation as a means of tackling climate change. It was agreed that discussions would be held around the formation of a new bilateral group to bring together experts on zero emission vehicles. The two countries also agreed to work closely together on climate science and space systems to support the development of a space climate observatory. Emmanuel Macron has increasingly taken the leadership role on implementing the Paris Agreement and set the topic high on the agenda during his recent visit to China.
Both the UK and France are taking significant actions to reduce emissions as they phase out coal from their generation mix and increase the share of renewables. France relies on nuclear generation for more than 75% of its power generation and, therefore, has a low carbon footprint for the power sector. However, because its nuclear fleet is ageing, France has set a target to reduce its nuclear generation to 50% of the mix by 2025 and to generate 27% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. The two countries are also cooperating on the construction of undersea cables that can help countries to cope with the intermittency of renewable generation. Although battery technology can help to address this, it cannot solve the problem alone. Interconnectors allow the UK to import electricity when renewable output is low and to export when it is high. At present, the UK has electricity interconnectors of 4GW capacity. New projects that are planned or under construction with other countries, including France, could add another 7.7GW in capacity.