January 22, 2018 / 5:51 PM / a year ago

France to decide on reactor closures by end-2018 - minister

* Specialists review French energy mix scenarios

* Some RTE forecasts assume sharp increase in exports

* First draft of energy plan due by summer

By Geert De Clercq

PARIS, Jan 22 (Reuters) - France will decide by the end of this year how many nuclear reactors it wants to close in order to reduce the share of nuclear in power generation, the energy minister said on Monday.

Under the previous socialist government’s 2015 energy transition law, France committed to reduce the share of nuclear in power generation to 50 percent by 2025 from 75 percent today, but centrist President Emmanuel Macron late last year postponed that target by a decade.

The government is now drawing up a multi-year energy plan that will specify how many reactors will close by when, and based on which criteria.

“There was no plan for how to get to that target ... We will draw up a plan. It will take into account jobs, carbon emissions and safety criteria,” energy minister Nicolas Hulot told reporters.

A first draft of the “multi-annual energy plan” (PPE) is expected by the end of June and the government has started talks with a group of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and energy specialists.

As a basis for discussion, grid operator RTE has drawn up four scenarios using different assumptions for power consumption, growth of renewables capacity and nuclear capacity.

Under RTE’s most pro-nuclear scenario, called “Volt”, nuclear capacity would be reduced by just eight gigawatt (GW) - the equivalent of about eight of EDF’s 58 nuclear plants - from the current 63 GW, while the most pro-renewables scenario, called “Watt”, would cut nuclear capacity by 55 GW, with renewables accounting for 71 percent of output by 2035.

A member of the group told Reuters that in a meeting about the energy plan last week, the energy ministry had asked RTE to present only the two scenarios under which nuclear capacity remained at its highest level, specifically 55 and 48 GW.

Hulot denied this was the case. “We have eliminated the two most extreme scenarios and kept the median scenarios,” he said.

Under the two median scenarios, Hertz and Ampere, nuclear capacity would fall by 24 or 15 GW by 2030 and account for about 50 percent of power generation, but with a higher share of renewables under the Ampere scenario.

Two of RTE’s scenarios also assume that electricity exports would increase from about 12 percent of output today to 25 or nearly 30 percent.

NegaWatt, a renewable energy advocacy group, said that under these scenarios where additional renewables capacity comes largely on top of nuclear capacity instead of replacing it, the export assumptions were too optimistic.

“Such a high level of exports supposes a significant and durable price differential between France and neighbouring countries,” NegaWatt’s Marc Jedliczka said. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mark Potter)

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