Electricity sector in France

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Cattenom nuclear power station near Luxembourg Wind turbines in Lower Normandy
The Cruas nuclear power plant at night
Left: The Cattenom nuclear power station near Luxemburg
Right: Wind power in France; turbines in Lower Normandy
Bottom: The Cruas nuclear power plant at night.
Electricity sector of France
Installed capacity135 GW
Production (2020)537.7 TWh
GHG emissions from electricity generation (2020)57.3 gCO2/kWh

The electricity sector in France is dominated by its nuclear power, which accounted for 71.7% of total production in 2018, while renewables and fossil fuels accounted for 21.3% and 7.1%, respectively[1] (compare to 72.3% nuclear, 17.8% renewables and 8.6% fossil fuels in 2016).[2] France has the largest share of nuclear electricity in the world, and together with renewable energy supplies, this has helped its grid achieve very low carbon intensity.

France's electrical grid is part of the synchronous grid of Continental Europe and due to a historical oversupply of nuclear power it is among the world's biggest net exporters of electricity.

The French nuclear power sector is almost entirely owned by the French government. The electricity sector in France will evolve in the coming years partly based on objectives defined by the government in its Strategy for Energy and Climate[3] and its National Low Carbon Strategy.[4]


In 2008 consumption of electricity was on average 8,233 kWh/person. This corresponded to 110% of the EU15 average (7,409 kWh/person) and 91% of the OECD average (8,991 kWh/person).[5]

Electricity per person and by power source[edit]

Electricity per capita in France (kWh/ hab.)[5]
Use Production Export Exp. % Fossil Nuclear Nuc. % Other RE* Bio+waste Wind Non RE use* RE %*
2004 8,204 9,203 999 12.2% 849 7,209 87.9% 1,061 83 7,060 13.9%
2005 8,215 9,176 961 11.7% 970 7,201 87.7% 924 81 7,210 12.2%
2006 8,140 9,041 901 11.1% 897 6,977 85.7% 1,083 85 6,972 14.3%
2008 8,233 8,984 751 9.1% 853 6,872 83.5% 1,168 91 6,974 15.3%
2009 7,951 8,351 400 5.0% 871 6,371 80.1% 897* 93 121* 6,840 14.0%
* Other RE is waterpower, solar and geothermal electricity and wind power until 2008
* Non RE use = use – production of renewable electricity
* RE % = (production of RE / use) * 100% Note: European Union calculates the share of renewable energies in gross electrical consumption.


Production of electricity in France by source since 1990[6]
Production of Electricity in France by source since 1990 in [%][6]

Mode of production[edit]

French gross production of electricity was 557 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2014,[7]: 27  slightly down from 570 and 567 TWh produced in 2008 and 2004, respectively. France is the world's 9th largest producer of electricity.[7]: 27 [8] France is also the world's second largest producer of nuclear electricity, behind the United States and ahead of Russia and Korea. In terms of nuclear's share on the total domestic electricity generation, France has by far the highest percentage portion of any country in the world (78.4% in 2014, also see chart "Electricity production by source").[7]: 17 

Live production and consumption of electricity can be found on the following websites: RTE eco2mix and grid watch.

France installed capacity [MW][9] and production in 2020 [TWh][6]





Nuclear 61,370 379.5
Hydropower 25,466 60.0
Wind power 17,391 34.1
Gas 12,529 38.6
Solar power 10,101 11.6
Coal 2,978 1.6
Oil 2,897 2.3
Bioenergies 2,160 9.9
Total 134,892 537.7

Nuclear power[edit]

France's nuclear power plants were installed as a response to the 1973 oil crisis, and are almost entirely owned by the French government and its electricity is sold to the government. According to Al Gore the degree of the government subsidy is difficult to ascertain because of a lack of transparencies in the finances of the operation.[10]

The Commissariat à l’Énergie Atomique is the national research body for nuclear power in France, providing RnD and advice to exploiters. The Autorité de sûreté nucléaire is charged of controlling compliance of facilities with laws and regulations. Nuclear companies include EdF and Areva. Électricité de France (EdF) is the main electricity producer. Eurodif is the uranium enrichment plant. Areva NC (France) and Rio Tinto (UK) are the top uranium companies of the world.

In 2010, as part of the progressive liberalisation of the energy market under EU directives, France agreed the Accès régulé à l'électricité nucléaire historique (ARENH) regulations that allowed third party suppliers access up to about a quarter of France's pre-2011 nuclear generation capacity, at a fixed price of €42/MWh from 1 July 2011 until 31 December 2025.[11][12][13]

France has the largest share of electricity from nuclear power in the world. According to the IEA 70.6% of its domestic electricity was generated by nuclear power in 2020. The second was Slovakia 53.1%, third Ukraine 51.2% and followed by Hungary 48%, Bulgaria 40.8%, Belgium 39.1%, Slovenia 37.8%, the Czech Republic 37.3%, Armenia 34.5% and Finland 33.9%[14] France's nuclear reactors comprise 90 percent of EDFs capacity and so they are used in load-following mode and some reactors close at weekends because there is no market for the electricity.[15][16] This means that the capacity factor is low by world standards, usually in the high seventies as a percentage, which is not an ideal economic situation for nuclear plants.[15]

In terms of installed capacity and produced power in 2013 France was the second largest producer of nuclear energy in the world behind the United States. Installed nuclear capacity was 63.1 GW and power production 403.7 TWh.[17]

France reprocesses its nuclear waste to retrieve plutonium and uranium for use as additional fuel. Fission products are stored in La Hague facility until a deep geological repository for high-level waste can be constructed. A repository for low-level and short-lived intermediate-level nuclear waste is already operational.[18]

The European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) at Flamanville, the first new nuclear reactor to be built in France in 15 years, as of 2012 was expected to open in 2016 instead of the original starting date of 2012, with costs climbing to €8.5bn instead of the original estimate of €3.3bn.[19] Further delays have since pushed the opening to at least late 2022.[20]

Hydro power[edit]

Since 2010, the installed hydro electricity power capacity in France has remained stable at 25 GW[9] and is expected to reach 25.7 GW by 2023.[3] Its annual production however has fluctuated across the years going down to 50.8 TWh in 2011 from up to 77 TWh in 2013[9] which is a reflection of the use of hydroelectricity as a mean to help balance the gaps between load consumption and production. Its average load factor is 25%[3] and in 2019 hydropower represented 12%[6] of the production in France. In terms of installed capacity, France ranked 2nd in Europe after Norway (32 GW[9]) and 10th in the world, China being the leader with 356 GW[9] of hydropower installed in 2019.

Wind power[edit]

Wind farm in France.

Installed wind power in France was 17,391 MW[21] at the end of 2020, representing 13%[21] of the overall installed capacity of the country. The share of wind power was in average 8,78%[21] of the electricity production during 2020 with a peak to 32,49%[21] on 27 September 2020.The load factor is estimated at 25%.[3]

In 2020 electric energy from wind power in France is still only produced in onshore wind farms. However, wind farms are under construction and the first offshore wind farms might be connected to the grid in 2021.[22] The government in its strategy for Energy and Climate expect to install 2.4 GW of offshore wind power by 2023.[3]

The tendering process to build France's first five offshore wind farms began on 25 January 2011 with four sites being awarded in 2012 (Fécamp, Courseulles-sur-Mer, Saint-Nazaire, Saint-Brieuc) and Dieppe/Le Tréport not being awarded because the electricity selling price was too high.[23] The second round of bidding was awarded in 2014 to the Areva / GDF Suez Consortium for the construction of two wind farms (Yeu-Noirmoutier & Dieppe/Le Tréport) and a total installed capacity of 1 GW.[23] Finally, a third round started in 2016 with the site of Dunkirk being awarded in 2019 the consortium EDF Energies Nouvelles, Innogy and Enbridge.[23]

EU and France Wind Energy Capacity (MW)[24][25][26][27][28][29][21]
Year France EU-27 Year France EU-27
2021 - - 2009 4,492 64,712
2020 17,391 - 2008 3,404 56,517
2019 16,646 196,636 2007 2,454 48,069
2018 15,307 181,583 2006 1,567 40,511
2017 13,757 170,859 2005 757 34,383
2016 12,065 143,307 2004 390 28,599
2015 10,293 131,545 2003 257 23,159
2014 9,296 118,950 2002 148 17,315
2013 8,254 105,696 2001 93 12,887
2012 7,564 93,957 2000 66 9,678
2011 6,640 84,074 1999 25 6,453
2010 5,970 74,767 1998 19 -

Solar power[edit]

France had 10571 MW[9] of photovoltaics installed capacity in 2019, and generated 10,569 GWh.[9] The European Union had a total installed capacity of 132,500 MW in 2019. France ranked 5th in terms of installed capacity after Spain (11,065 MW), UK (13,616 MW), Italy (22,666 MW) and Germany (45,784 MW).The average load factor is estimated at 13.7%.[3] The government's target is to reach between 18,200 MW and 20,200 MW of installed capacity by 2023.[3]

France's largest solar park is the Cestas Solar Park near Bordeaux which has been commissioned the 1st December 2015 with a capacity of 300 MW. This solar park is owned by Neoen .The second largest completed solar park is the 115 MW Toul-Rosières Solar Park[30] owned by EDF Renewables, a subsidiary of EDF Group.

France solar power installed capacity and production[9]
Year Installed





2019 10,571 10,569
2015 7,138 7,753
2010 1,044 620

Fossil fuels[edit]

France imported 22 megatonnes (Mt) of oil products for all purposes in 2014, making it Europe's largest, and the world's 4th largest net-importer of fossil oil, behind Japan (29 Mt), Singapore (26 Mt), and Indonesia (23 Mt).[7]: 21  However, the majority of oil was used by the transportation sector (57% in 2011)[31] and not for electricity generation.


On 8 January 2021, RTE (French TSO) expected a high consumption of 88,000 MW and, with a planned production of 88,200 MW, requested its users to reduce their consumptions.[32][33] In comparison, in 2019 the peak consumption in France was 88,500 MW[34] and 96,600 MW in 2018.[35] The production constraints probably came from a conjunction of several factors. 12 reactors out of 56 were out for maintenance (delays due in part to coronavirus measures) and therefore during that day, the nuclear production was at ~51 GW[36] despite an installed capacity of 61,370 GW. Wind power had a low production (~ 1 GW[36] despite 17 GW[21] of installed capacity). Finally, the price of electricity was high everywhere in Europe (~€100 /MWh,[37] in comparison the average price of Electricity in France was €40.1 /MWh in November 2020[38]), sign of a tension on the electricity production everywhere in Europe, meaning that the country could less rely on import from neighboring countries.

International exchanges[edit]

French import–export balance of electricity in 2020 (TWh)

In 2019, France exported a total of 57 TWh of electricity with its neighbouring countries. Since 1990, each year, France roughly exports 10% of its annual production. Its annual exchange sold has always remained positive.[6]

France was the leader in the export of electricity in 2008: 48 TWh followed by Paraguay 46 TWh and Canada 32 TWh.[39]

Exportation and importation of Electricity in France since 1990[6]

Power stations[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Données en energie". RTE France. Réseau de transport d'électricité. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  2. ^ National yearly power generation by source, Réseau de Transport d'Électricité (Electricity Transmission Network Company) Open Data.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "French_Strategy_For_Energy_and_Climate" (PDF). www.ecologie.gouv.fr/programmations-pluriannuelles-lenergie-ppe. Retrieved 10 January 2021.
  4. ^ "France Low Carbon Strategy" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b Energy in Sweden, Facts and figures, The Swedish Energy Agency, (in Swedish: Energiläget i siffror), Table: Specific electricity production per inhabitant with breakdown by power source (kWh/person), Source: IEA/OECD 2006 T23 Archived 4 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 2007 T25 Archived 4 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 2008 T26 Archived 4 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine, 2009 T25 Archived 20 January 2011 at the Wayback Machine and 2010 T49 Archived 16 October 2013 at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "IEA Data and statistics France 2019".
  7. ^ a b c d International Energy Agency, IEA—Key World Energy Statistics 2016, published October 2016
  8. ^ IEA Key energy statistics 2006 Archived 12 October 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h "IRENA_Renewable_Energy_Statistics_2020" (PDF).
  10. ^ Al Gore: Our Choice, A plan to solve the climate crises, Bloomsbury 2009 page 156
  11. ^ Stefan Ambec; Claude Crampes (16 January 2019). "Regulated Access to Incumbent Nuclear Electricity". Florence School of Regulation, European University Institute. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  12. ^ "EDF terminates nuclear electricity supply contracts". World Nuclear News. 3 June 2020. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  13. ^ Fabrice Fages; Myria Saarinen (2019). "France". In David L Schwartz (ed.). The Energy Regulation and Markets Review. Law Business Research. ISBN 978-1-83862-032-5. Retrieved 4 June 2020.
  14. ^ IEA Nuclear Share of Electricity Generation in 2020
  15. ^ a b Kidd, Steve (22 June 2009). "Nuclear in France - what did they get right?". Nuclear Engineering International. Archived from the original on 11 May 2010.
  16. ^ Stephanie Cooke (2009). In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age, Black Inc., p. 359.
  17. ^ IEA Nuclear Share of Electricity Generation in 2013
  18. ^ "Nuclear Power in France". WNA. April 2001. Retrieved 2 June 2011.
  19. ^ "EDF raises French EPR reactor cost to over $11 billion". Reuters. 3 December 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
  20. ^ "Snag-hit new French nuclear power station delayed by further 3 years". Agence France Presse. 29 July 2019.
  21. ^ a b c d e f "RTE_EcoMixte_Installed_Capacity_France 1st december 2020".
  22. ^ "RTE Electricity report 2019 page 115 English version" (PDF).
  23. ^ a b c "offshore wind farms in France - summary of three tendering round" (PDF).
  24. ^ EWEA Staff (2010). "Cumulative installed capacity per EU Member State 1998 - 2009 (MW)". European Wind Energy Association. Retrieved 22 May 2010.
  25. ^ EWEA Staff (February 2011). "EWEA Annual Statistics 2010" (PDF). European Wind Energy Association. Retrieved 31 January 2011.
  26. ^ EWEA Staff (February 2012). "EWEA Annual Statistics 2011" (PDF). European Wind Energy Association. Retrieved 18 February 2011.
  27. ^ Wind in power: 2012 European statistics February 2013
  28. ^ "Kontinente - Statistiken - Online-Zugriff - the Wind Power".
  29. ^ "Länder - Statistiken - Online-Zugriff - the Wind Power".
  30. ^ Marguerite Fund Buys Into France’s Largest Solar Park
  31. ^ "IEA Energy Supply and Security Report 2014" (PDF).
  32. ^ "RTE asks users to reduce electricity consumption".
  33. ^ Brändle, Stefan (8 January 2021). "Droht Frankreich ein Blackout?" [Is France facing a blackout?]. Frankfurter Rundschau (in German). Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  34. ^ "Peak consumption France 2019".
  35. ^ "Peak consumption France 2018".
  36. ^ a b "RTE production data".
  37. ^ "Les données de marché". www.rte-france.com (in French). Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  38. ^ "RTE - Monthly Report on French Electricity Grid" (PDF).
  39. ^ IEA Key stats 2010 pages electricity 27 gas 13,25 fossil 25 nuclear 17