Since the Fukushima disaster, the energy world has been asking itself questions. Not only Japan, but other countries like France, Germany and Belgium, have taken the decision to make significant reductions in the share of nuclear power, in favor of a more diversified power generation mix.
What will be tomorrow’s energy mix?
The direct consequence of this determination is an increasing interest in natural gas, which is making a powerful comeback, as it offers undeniable advantages: it is competitive for heating and for power generation, and is also a secure source of energy thanks to the geographical diversity of the supply areas. Natural gas is a source of energy that emits low levels of CO2 and is perfectly complementary to renewable energy. It is also extremely flexible, thanks to the way it is stored, to the liquefied natural gas terminals and to the efficiency of the related facilities. It enables an effective response to changes in electricity consumption, while making up for the intermittent nature of wind or solar power. Based on this observation, GDF SUEZ allows for about 60% of gas in its electricity mix, and offers the largest installed base in the world.
What will be the role of renewable energy?
Another consequence of the government’s aim to reduce the share of nuclear power to 50% by 2025 is to create a broader opening for renewable energy in the French electricity market, thereby reducing the risk of dependence on a single production technology. This policy has the support of GDF SUEZ, which, as the largest global generator of non-nuclear power, the largest player in onshore wind power in France, Belgium and Italy, and the second largest hydroelectricity generator in France, is giving renewable energy an increasingly important role in its energy generation mix. The investments made in all the renewable energy sectors, whether intended to generate electricity (hydropower, biomass and biogas, wind power and solar power) or heat (biomass, solar power and geothermal energy) or both at the same time thanks to co-generation facilities, demonstrate this strong desire to diversify. The goal is to increase GDF SUEZ’s renewable energy capacity by 50% between 2009 and 2015.
What about refocusing the debate on demand, rather than supply?
If we want to behave in a way that is consistent with energy efficiency objectives, so as to consume in a less energy-intensive and more responsible way, should we not review the way we approach the energy mix? GDF SUEZ is working on it, and no longer focuses its energy policy on supply – i.e. generation and delivery – but on the real demand required and the variety of uses (heating, cooking, lighting, transport, and industrial processes, etc.) accompanied by a desire for a transparent tariff policy that ensures energy at a “fair” price that reflects economic reality and the introduction of specific and increased protection measures for the most underprivileged users.
Only a diversified and flexible energy mix, based on energy with the lowest carbon content and on the complementarity of the various energy sources in response to the diversity of requirements and uses, will provide a genuine and sustainable solution for energy transition.
The energy outlook in 2030
Between now and 2030, an energy mix scenario that is defined according to sustainable development criteria by the experts at the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and published in the International Energy Agency’s annual report, forecasts that crude oil will account for 30% of world-wide primary energy consumption, compared with 34% in 2007. Gas will account for 20.5% of the mix, compared with 20.9% today, while coal will contribute 16.6% to the total, compared with 26.5%. Nuclear power will account for 9.5% compared with 5.9%, and renewable energy for 23.4% compared with 12.7%. Innovation in sustainable technologies and the search for new reserves are the focal point of this transformation. The challenge for specialized industrial groups is to be able to manage continuity in the energy mix, at a competitive cost, while preserving the balance.