Give us the options, energy debate commission tells French government

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government should await the findings of a public debate before it drafts how it will meet its goal of reducing the share of nuclear energy in power generation, the commission tasked with organising the forum said on Tuesday.

Former president Francois Hollande’s government drew up a multi-year energy programme (PPE) to implement a 2015 energy transition law that targeted cutting the share of nuclear energy to 50 percent by 2025 from 75 percent today.

But the centrist government of President Emmanuel Macron has pushed back that deadline by a decade and not detailed how to get there. It plans to draft new PPEs for 2019-2023 and 2024-2028.

The most controversial issue is how many of French state-controlled utility EDF’s 58 nuclear reactors will have to close to reach the 50 percent target and by when.

After initial consultations with energy companies, NGOs and sector specialists last month, a public debate is planned between mid-March and June. A first draft of the new PPE is due this summer.

But Jacques Archimbaud, head of the commission tasked with organising the debate, told reporters on Tuesday he was still waiting for a document from the environment ministry’s energy and climate directorate (DGEC) that outlines options.

“We would like this document to lay out what the choices are,” Archimbaud said.

He also called on the the government to make clear why it had discarded two scenarios that would lead to the highest number of nuclear plant closures.

Ahead of the debate, French grid operator RTE has prepared four scenarios with different mixes of nuclear and renewables, but the French government has dismissed the two scenarios that reduce the share of nuclear the most, saying these could lead to an increase in carbon emissions.

EDF has already said it wants to close no nuclear plants before 2029 except the one in Fessenheim.

Reporting by Benjamin MalletWriting by Geert De ClercqEditing by Richard Lough