* Draft energy document short on concrete measures
* Document meant to shape framework energy bill
* Businesses denounce idealistic project, then sign up
(Adds new Medef position, energy ministry)
By Michel Rose
PARIS, July 18 France's eight-month national
consultation on the future of its nuclear-dominated energy
sector ended on Thursday with watered down targets on cutting
energy consumption after a big business lobby group said earlier
proposals were unrealistic.
The world's most nuclear-reliant nation launched the debate
on energy transition last November in a bid to reshape the way
energy is produced and consumed as it faces increasing costs to
maintain an ageing fleet of reactors.
It was the first time the French people have been allowed to
discuss the nuclear power issue in an official setting and was
meant to shape a framework energy law to be debated in
parliament early next year following a government opinion.
Business groups, trade unions, parliamentarians and NGOs met
in Paris to adopt conclusions after months of small, low-profile
meetings across the country that have largely failed to grab the
In a last-minute negotiations, representatives from the
national employers' group Medef, small and medium-sized
companies, farmers and artisans threatened not to support the
conclusions before accepting a reworked version later.
The document, already watered down and short on concrete
measures, replaced 15 "recommendations" with 15 "challenges".
"There was a real evolution during the day, we couldn't
initially support this document," said Michel Guilbaud, Medef
One target mentioned, cutting energy consumption in France
by half between 2012 and 2050, had been rejected by Jean-Louis
Schilansky, head of the UFIP oil lobby and Medef's energy chair
president, earlier in the day.
"It seems utopian to us, we don't have the means to do it,"
he told BFM TV.
"We should take realistic, economic measures that improve
French people's purchasing power and not dream of an ideal
society we won't be able to obtain," he added.
The final version includes a minimum target for a 20 percent
cut in consumption, depending on technological breakthroughs.
Some organisers of the debate had expressed suspicion at
Medef's tough, last-minute stance. Its new head Pierre Gattaz,
chief executive of industrial group Radiall, has adopted a more
combative approach towards the government than his predecessor,
The business group is keen to flex its muscles in the midst
of important talks with unions and the government on pension
reform, with a draft law due around September.
"Medef spoils eight months of debate by refusing a text that
it still supported yesterday at 4pm," said Bruno Rebelle, member
of the debate's steering committee and former president of
"After that little bluff, we have finally got back to
talking about substance, so we are satisfied," said Matthieu
Orphelin, spokesman for the Fondation Hulot environment group.
The document was cautious on the controversial nuclear
energy issue, proposing a study to evaluate the economic, social
and environmental consequences of President Francois Hollande's
pledge to cut reliance on the energy source.
Working to fulfil key electoral pledges, Hollande aims to
cut the share of nuclear power in the electricity mix by 2025 to
50 percent from 75 percent, to reduce the country's appetite for
oil, to boost renewables and lift energy savings.
With France currently shunning shale gas for environmental
reasons, energy-hungry industrial firms have argued that they
simply cannot do without cheap nuclear power.
France's energy is one of Europe's cheapest, thanks to its
58, mostly-amortized, nuclear power reactors, although stricter,
post-Fukushima rules and ageing infrastructures mean costs are
set to rise.
(Additional reporting by Marion Douet; Editing by David Evans)