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The energy transition in France - an inspiration for Spain?

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Teresa Ribera. Director of the Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI). SciencesPo, Paris

France has identified the energy transition as one of its major political and economic challenges. Less well known outside its borders than the German and British cases, this effort represents one of the references that Spain should pay more attention to.

At the beginning of his term, President Hollande stressed the importance of undertaking this major reform that will affect homes and industry, the electrical system and transport. He constituted the National Commission for Energy Transition and after two years of work, in October, the National Assembly will begin debating a legal framework for energy transition with the intention that it will enter into force in the first half of 2015.

Often we hear the argument about the difficulty and cost for Spain to undertake its own energy transition. To put things in context, we should not forget the intense and heartfelt relationship France has with nuclear energy. When World War II began, French research on the atom and nuclear technology had already been recognized with five Nobel Prizes, including Pierre and Marie Curie. Years later, it was their leadership in this field which allowed them to find the way out to the oil crisis. In just over 12 years, France built 55 of its 58 reactors, which in total have a combined generating capacity of 63,000 MW. That is, since then France has undergone a very fast "energy transition" that for years has allowed it to maintain centralized generating facilities; electricity prices controlled by public decision; emissions per capita and per unit of GDP lower than the OECD average and, until recently, a relatively comfortable position in the global debate on climate and energy.

Energy linked to the people

Why then has the need arisen to undertake a new profound energy transition? Simply because France has decided to look to the future and prepare itself to meet the challenges of the coming decades by reducing its waste and dependence on foreign energy, ensuring system security and supply its citizens and industry at affordable prices, taking on their national medium and long term CO2 commitments and taking advantage of the technological and industrial potential of new energy models. Today nobody questions the need to make this change; rather the debate is limited to the rate at which to undertake it.

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