France looks to rely less on nuclear power and more on wind energy

France may be the world’s most nuclear energy dependent country, but times are changing as the country looks to increase the amount of wind–sourced electricity in its power mix.

When French President François Hollande took the reins of power in 2012 he pledged to reduce the country’s nuclear dependency from 75% to 50% by 2025.

Today, France has a goal of reaching 19 GW of wind energy by 2020, up from its current level of 8.2 GW, according to the European Wind Energy Association’s (EWEA) latest statistics. This will significantly raise the percentage of wind powered electricity in the country from the 3% wind covers today. And, according to a very recent survey, the French people are firmly behind the transition.

Some 64% of French people see wind energy as a solution, among others, in the context of the energy transition, says a CSA survey published in March 2014. Moreover, 80% of the 1010 respondents consider it necessary to invest in wind without waiting for the traditional power plants to reach the end of their lifecycle.

65% of those surveyed said that they would invest in renewable energy (wind and solar/photovoltaic) today if they had to personally invest in one energy source, while 15% chose nuclear, 7% chose gas and 1% chose coal. Meanwhile, 69% of French people would choose wind energy if they had to choose one energy type to be constructed in their region. 75% chose solar, 21% chose nuclear, 16% chose gas and 4% chose gas.

The results show that the French are aware that an energy transition must take place, they are confident enough in renewables to invest if they could, and they know that the time to act is now.

Next year is a key year for energy decision-makers in France since both the UN summit on climate change will take place in Paris, and, just two weeks before, EWEA will host is internationally-renowned annual event EWEA 2015 from 17-20 November in the same city.

France’s opinions on wind power sit well with Europe-wide opinion polls on wind energy, as detailed by EWEA. EWEA believes that wind energy delivers a multitude of benefits to communities from sustainable jobs and economic revival, to fighting climate change and bolstering energy security.

On a local level, renting out land for wind farms can provide income, and taxes from a wind energy business can be used by the local community to improve infrastructure all of which contribute to the public’s strong perception of wind power.

The results in France echo other public opinion surveys in the country: In 2011 an ADEME opinion poll found that 80% of French people back the installation of wind turbines. In 2013 an IPSOS survey found that wind power had a good image for 83% of the population.

The same survey found that 80% of interviewees would welcome wind turbines in their region (départment) while 68% would welcome turbines in their local area (commune). And, according to France Energie Eolienne, public opinion becomes more favourable the closer the respondent lives to a wind farm.