Lévy, EDF: About 10 European Countries Counting on Nuclear to Reach Paris Goals
Date: November 27th 2020
Author: Tanja Srnovršnik
About 10 European countries are “no doubt counting on nuclear to bring them a large part of the solution” in their path towards reaching the Paris Agreement goals. “This means that nuclear is part of the solution, albeit not the only one,” said Jean-Bernard Lévy, the chairman and CEO of the French utility EDF, in the latest installment of the IEA Big Ideas speaker series, which was held virtually on Wednesday. EDF also sees some prospects for small modular reactors (SMRs), however, it is too early to assess whether they can “really compete with large-scale reactors,” said Lévy.Nuclear presents an “interesting solution” in several countries where electricity generated from coal has played a major role for decades, noted Lévy.
This can be seen in some countries that already have nuclear capacity, but also rely heavily on coal for power generation, such as the Czech Republic, said Lévy.
Then there are countries such as Poland, “which does not currently have any nuclear reactors but is heavily reliant on coal for its electricity and is going to implement a nuclear programme,” mentioned Lévy.
“We estimate that there are about 10 European countries that are no doubt counting on nuclear to bring them a large part of the solution towards the Paris Agreement goals. This means that nuclear is part of the solution,” assessed Lévy.
“Nuclear has a very strong share in clean electricity in Japan, Europe and United States, where its share in total electricity generation amounts to about 20-25%. Without having nuclear in the portfolio, it will be very hard, if not impossible, to reach our climate goals,” warned Fatih Birol, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).
SMRs still an “emerging” business
Lévy also mentioned that EDF has launched a French SMR project. “We are working on the basic design of this project. EDF is leading the project together with other French partners.”
When responding to the question of whether SMRs are “2.0 for nuclear,” Lévy noted that “it will still take a few years before anybody can really say whether several SMRs will bring more value, be less costly, more flexible, easier to maintain, and – in terms of lifetime cost – be something that can compete with large-scale nuclear reactors.” The technology does, however, show promise, he added.
According to Lévy, all existing SMR projects are currently “financed by governments. This is not a market-driven business but rather a government funded business. But maybe in 5, 10 or 15 years’ time, people will say: ‘now we do have the knowledge or the ability for SMRs to really compete with large-scale reactors’.”
“SMRs are an emerging business and we want to test the concept before we can state whether SMRs are competitive compared to large-scale nuclear. It is too early to make any definitive statements in that respect, but we want to give it a try like others are doing too,” mentioned Lévy.
Lévy also thinks that hydropower will continue to play an important role in the future.
EDF, which is majority-owned by the French government, has amassed a global portfolio of 32.5 GW of renewables, including 9.8 GW of wind and solar and 22.3 GW of hydropower.
The utility is currently targeting a total renewables portfolio of 50 GW by 2030. Lévy said in February that EDF would revisit that target because “it really looks like we are going to exceed it, and by quite a significant amount.”
According to Lévy, EDF is also working on hydrogen. However, “EDF will be part only of low-carbon hydrogen, we are not going to become a player in hydrogen solutions based on fossil fuels,” he stressed.
This article is available also in Slovene.