RTE, the French TSO, has recently published 5 energy transition scenarios to help policymakers set a framework for the French energy policy. These are 5 more scenarios.
But what do they provide to deciders better than the previous ones? Why precedents have not put in motion the French ecosystem? What are the conditions for a successful energy transition?
First of all, despite some common points, the scenarios are not necessarily the same. Their goals are different: to compare two options to highlight a specific point (is a 100% renewable mix viable?), to support a militant approach (show the interest of wind or PV solar).
From my point of view, in any case, the results are debatable: the depth of the systemic reasoning and the calculation methods make it possible to favor one conclusion or another. For example, a scenario of a very strong development of intermittent renewable energies will not be seen with the same attractiveness if the environmental impact is measured through CO2 emissions or if it is evaluated through the various consequences of over-exploitation of rare metals linked to the boom of photovoltaics and batteries.
The scenarios studied so far are distinguished by their initial assumptions: they are most often political choices (closing the nuclear power plants as soon as they reach 40 years old) or structuring objectives (50% of nuclear in the 2035 mix), the consequences of which are assessed in financial and environmental terms, by limiting too often the evaluation to the impact on CO2 emissions.
Such scenarios suggest that the initial choices are structuring (and there is no doubt they are) and are followed by 15 to 20 years perfectly planned and controlled during which no uncertainty will disturb the operations. This will never be the case.
The set of scenarios thus developed is an excellent support for political decisions but can in no way constitute a strategy. The anticipated study of the influence of “market” parameters is essential to accompany the energy transition and allow sufficient responsiveness to achieve the objectives in the case of a major shift in environmental, financial, economic or technological conditions.
Even if completed in this way, the scenarios are not sufficient to guarantee a successful energy transition. They do not guarantee the launch of any dynamics. Building an energy transition scenario without describing the conditions for success and without setting the necessary framework for the coordinated evolution of actors is doomed to failure.
Engaging successfully in an energy transition requires setting a course and a political ambition (via scenarios), to provide the country with a regulatory and legislative framework regularly evaluated and adjusted (while offering visibility to investors), with a global supervision of the transition guaranteeing constantly the will to move forward, with a framework for consultations adapted to each question, with an effective coordination of the whole of the stakeholders taking into account the interests and the stakes of each and with a permanent education of public opinion.
It is unfortunate that the European countries do not collaborate sufficiently to exchange their best practices and that France, in particular, has been very much focused, until now, on the repeated studies of various scenarios.
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Eric Morel is a worldwide recognised expert of energy transition and digitalisation. In the past, he has served as VP Corporate Business Strategy and VP Global Smart Grids and Energy Efficiency at Schneider Electric as well as CEO of Ilevo, a telecommunication start-up. He is a founding member and a former Board member of the Gridwise Alliance, the main professional private/public association dedicated to Smart Energy.