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France sets new peak in solar power generation – but not because of heatwave

France recorded a new peak in solar electricity production on August 7 at more than 10.7 GW, the equivalent of what 10 nuclear power plants can produce on average.

The peak arrived around 2:00 p.m. on a particularly clear day.

The graph below shows France’s real-time energy mix as of August 7 and is produced by the Réseau de Transport d’Électricité (RTE), France’s electricity transmission system operator.

It shows at that time that solar energy was responsible for 26% of France’s electricity.

Screenshot / Electricity transmission network

France has massively increased its solar energy capacity over the past year, the main reason for reaching this peak in energy production, with a particularly sunny day.

At the end of the third quarter of 2021, Enedis, the French electricity grid operator, had connected more solar panels to the grid than in the whole of 2020, i.e. more than 40,000.

It brings the number of connected solar panels in France to more than 500,000, for a total production potential of 11 GW. That’s enough to power 2.9 million homes.

“Enedis has seen a sharp increase in connection requests in 2021, in particular for high-power installations – in particular ground-mounted and floating solar power plants”, specifies the company. States.

Read more: Solar panels on a French property: how to make your own electricity

Read more: Is our income from the sale of domestic solar panels taxable in France?

For Nicolas Leclerc, co-founder of Omnegy, a company specializing in the purchase of energy, the increase in solar energy production in France is “encouraging”.

“We are on track to achieve the objectives set by the PPE, to have an installed capacity in 2024 of around 20 GW and 35 GW in 2028,” he told France Inter.

The multi-annual energy program (PPE) defines the measures and actions that will enable France to decarbonize energy-related sectors and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Despite this, solar energy remains a very minor part of France’s overall energy mix, representing around 2.2% of the electricity produced in the country, according to 2019 figures from EDF. It is highly likely that this has increased since then, but there are no more recent figures publicly available.

France derives the vast majority of its electricity from nuclear energy.

Heat waves don’t help solar power

The peak in solar power generation in France came one summer when the country faced a series of heat waves.

But high temperatures are not necessarily good for solar panels.

Too much heat can drastically reduce the ability of solar panels to generate electricity, sometimes by as much as 25%, according to CED Greentech, a solar equipment supplier in the United States.

Mr Leclerc of Omnegy said recent heat waves and droughts will have had a “counterproductive effect” on solar panel production.

France is not meeting its renewable energy targets

France is the only EU country not to have met the target of having renewables make up 23% of its energy mix by 2020, set in a 2009 EU directive.

At the time, renewable energies represented only 19.1% of the country’s energy mix.

This failure is one of the reasons why the French state has had to deal with two considerable court cases.

In one case, the commune of Grande-Synthe appealed to France’s Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, over France’s inaction on reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. .

In November 2020, the Council of State ordered the French government to justify its actions to reduce carbon emissions. The commune of Grande-Synthe was unhappy with the report that the French state finally produced in March this year and pledged to push for a financial sanction.

Another case was brought before the Paris administrative court by a group of organizations under the banner of the Affair of the Century.

On October 14, 2021, the court ruled in favor of the organizations and gave the French state until December 31, 2022 to “repair the ecological damage” caused by the country’s failure to meet its emissions reduction commitments. of greenhouse gases.

Read more: French justice orders the government to honor its climate promises

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