March 3, 2015 / 4:20 PM / 5 years ago

Senate waters down French energy bill, committee to seek compromise

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government’s energy bill was approved by the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament on Tuesday in a watered-down version that ditches key nuclear reduction targets and is likely to be changed again before its final adoption.

The energy bill passed by the Socialist-controlled lower house last October included a reduction in the share of nuclear energy in the power mix to 50 percent from 75 percent by 2025 and capped nuclear output at current levels.

The Senate, where the center-right has a majority, raised the cap, which would have forced power giant EDF to shut 1,600 megawatts of nuclear capacity when its new EPR reactor opened in 2017, and removed any reference to 2025.

This would threaten President Francois Hollande’s campaign pledge to shut France’s oldest nuclear plant, at Fessenheim, near the German border.

The bill, spearheaded by Energy Minister Segolene Royal, now goes to a joint committee of lawmakers from both houses, which will try to reach a compromise this month. If this fails, the bill will return to the lower house, which has the final say.

The Senate’s version has angered wind power professionals, after it doubled the minimum distance between wind turbines and homes to 1,000 meters.

Renewable energy lobby group SER said this would make it the most stringent regulation in Europe and would threaten 90 percent of wind power projects under development.

“If this was adopted, it would mean a brutal halt in the development of onshore wind power in France, which was only just picking up,” Jean-Louis Bal, head of the SER, told reporters.

The energy minister said in a statement that she favored a return to the initial version of the text regarding that subject and the cap on nuclear output.

Reporting by Michel Rose; Editing by James Regan

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