French Power Grid Spending Could Rise to $19 Billion by 2020

France’s power grid will have to invest about 15 billion euros ($19 billion) by the end of the decade to add and refurbish electricity transmission lines as the country plans to lower its reliance on nuclear energy.

Spending could rise to 35 billion to 50 billion euros by 2030, Reseau de Transport d’Electricite said in a report published today. The range depends on the proportion of nuclear and renewable energies produced in France in the coming years.

RTE, based outside Paris, is wholly-owned by Electricite de France SA, the world’s biggest nuclear operator. EDF’s 58 reactors provide more than three-quarters of France’s electricity. French President Francois Hollande has pledged to lower this reliance on atomic energy to about 50 percent by 2025. The policy change was triggered by the nuclear accident last year at Fukushima in Japan and would require grid infrastructure upgrades, in part to handle intermittent wind and solar electricity production.

The RTE report was published ahead of the government-led national debate on energy that Environment Minister Delphine Batho has said will preclude a new law on the country’s future energy mix. Hollande has already announced the permanent closure of EDF’s oldest plant at Fessenheim in eastern France.

Of the investment needed by 2030, 5 billion euros would be for reinforcing connections with neighboring countries and 5 billion to 10 billion euros to accompany the “energy transition,” according to RTE’s report.

Over the next three years, the utility is planning to develop about 70 new power lines, of which 63 will be buried.

Brittany in western France and Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur in the south lack power-generation capacity and face risks of shortages in the event of a plant or network failure, the grid has said. Brittany produces 10 percent of its power needs.

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