What is CRE's opinion on the nuclear - renewable energies debate?
Published on Sunday 17 September 2023 | Article n°457
Earlier this week, the French Energy Regulation Commission (CRE) submitted its report on the production costs of electricity generated by EDF's reactors to the government. No figures have yet been released. According to La Tribune,
This opacity raises questions, even though this information will be crucial in determining the future model for regulating nuclear prices.
The aim is to find a replacement for the Arenh formula, which obliges EDF to sell part of its production at a price of €42 per megawatt-hour.
EDF no longer wants to sell its production at cost or at a loss. It is keen to obtain financing to maintain and renew its nuclear fleet, but does not want to say at what price. In September 2020, the CRE study indicated a production cost of €48.36, or five euros less than EDF indicated at the time. These estimates did not take into account the investment costs to be incurred over the lifetime of the reactors.
In 2013, the Cour des Comptes (French Court of Auditors) estimated that if these necessary investments were factored into the average production cost of France's 19 nuclear power plants (current economic cost), this would rise to €59.80 per MWh. This was 20.6% higher than the figure calculated in 2010 (€49.50 per MWh). In a new report in September 2021, the Court found that the cost per MWh, based on 2019 production, was as high as €64.80 per MWh.
If the cost is going to rise, it's because we have to take into account the "grand carénage", a €100 billion programme (€75 billion for investment and €25 billion for operation) to extend existing facilities as far as possible. In September 2021, the French Court of Auditors estimated that "the cost of extending the lifespan [of power plants] can be estimated at a minimum of €35 (in 2015) per MWh". That is, with inflation, around €40 today. He adds that "to this must be added past investments that have not yet been fully amortised and still have to be remunerated to obtain the full future production cost of existing nuclear power".
According to the government, the six EPR2s should cost between 52 and 56 billion euros. Added to this will be the cost of the electricity generated by these plants, estimated at between €80 and €100 per MWh.
Added to this is the low level of nuclear production. In 2015, production reached 420 terawatt hours. In 2022, production was only 279 TWh, then 330 TWh forecast in 2023. Cost is the sum of expenditure divided by production. The less we produce, the higher our costs.
To be rigorous, although MWh of wind and solar power sometimes appear, at first sight, to be cheaper to produce, the costs associated with managing their intermittency and their connection, in particular, can quickly reverse the equation. For RTE (an EDF subsidiary), these additional costs will be "more significant in scenarios with a very high proportion of renewable energies".
The Cour des Comptes is calling for "better identification of the costs associated with extending the life of power plants, in order to determine the relevance of such an extension in relation to the development of new means of production. "
La Tribune, 15 September 2023
NDLR The silence surrounding the report by the Commission de régulation de l'énergie shows that democratic debate does not exist in France. It indicates that what concerns all French people, in the form of energy consumption, must remain a matter for governments, specialists and pressure groups. However, the cost of the energy that will result from these choices will be determined over the next thirty to fifty years.
And we are surprised by the numerous demonstrations that are shaking France, while the French government and, behind the scenes, the European Commission are making decisions without consultation!
This summer, 1,100 scientists came together to protest against France's new nuclear programme and organised a press meeting at the French National Assembly on 12 September. They are calling for a genuine public debate on these issues.
"Nuclear energy needs a lot of cooling. The heatwaves and droughts of recent years, which are set to continue regardless of the measures taken, should have given us pause for thought, whereas the nuclear revival plan will have the effect of increasing the need for cooling water. "
These scientists point out that reviving nuclear power is a societal choice. It needs to be discussed and debated, not just in terms of its technical aspects by a small number of experts, but in all its components (ecological, social, economic) with society as a whole.
PV Magazine, 15 September 2023
Editor's note Although nuclear power has a major problem with cooling during heatwaves and heating up rivers, it does have the advantage of permanent production. Renewable energies (solar and wind) have the disadvantage of intermittence, which means that we have to over-invest to produce energy in advance that may be used when we need it.
So neither type of energy is completely satisfactory. Where should we turn to ensure that energy is available at the lowest cost?
All the same, we seem to have come to terms with the advantages and disadvantages of nuclear power, which has been around for some sixty years as a civil energy source, while renewable energies are only just emerging, with all their drawbacks, but with the promise of being able to meet our energy needs.With all their drawbacks, but with the promise of cheaper energy, with the possibility of storing energy more efficiently than with lithium batteries, and also with a different social organisation. For the moment, the benefits are not sufficiently obvious to win unanimous support. Research, innovation and dissemination throughout society will gradually ensure the dominance of photovoltaics. You only have to look at the success of balcony solar panels in Germany to see what Germans want. Will the French soon follow suit?