Total electricity production down in 2020
Over 2020 as a whole, CO2-eq emissions from the French power sector decreased by nearly 9 % from the previous year.
Electricity demand contracted due to the health crisis, and production therefore declined sharply during the year.
Despite the decline in nuclear generation, the penetration of decarbonised energy in the mix increased
Nuclear power’s share of total electricity generation contracted in 2020, from 70 % to 67 %. This decrease was nonetheless offset in part by increases in hydropower, wind and solar output, which posted year-on-year increases of 8 %, 17% and 2%, respectively.
Fossil-fired generation was lower
The decline in CO2-eq emissions from electricity generation in 2020 is thus directly attributable to the decrease in production from the sources that pollute the most, such as coal and gas, which saw a year-on-year decrease of 11 %. See section: Fossil-fired generation. Proportionately, the breakdown of the electricity mix was thus more decarbonised than in 2019.
Self-consumption affected by the crisis
CO2-eq emissions associated with self-consumption reached an estimated 3.2 million tonnes in 2020 (-11 % versus 2019). There was a notable decrease in self-consumption in the industrial sector in April and May, when the health crisis triggered a lockdown. The energy produced for self-consumption in France is estimated to be 62 % gas, 18 % oil, 17 % municipal waste incineration and 3 % coal.
Total decarbonised electricity volumes rose in Europe
The power sector’s low contribution to CO2 equivalent (CO2-eq) emissions in France is explained by the fact that decarbonised sources – nuclear, hydropower, solar and wind – make up about 92 % of total production. This places France in a unique position relative to its neighbouring countries.
Sweden still posts the lowest emissions in Europe, as nearly all of its electricity production is decarbonised. Germany generated over half of its electricity (50.6 %) from renewable sources in 2020, for the first time. The country began relying more on renewable sources than nuclear power back in 2011, and the United Kingdom followed suit in 2014.
In the Netherlands, the electricity mix is dominated by gas. Though the country ranks low, its CO2 emissions are not as high as in other countries, as emissions from gas power plants are half what they are with coal-fired plants.
Poland, where the electricity mix is largely dominated by coal, generated more than 80 % of its power from fossil thermal plants.
Decarbonised electricity volumes holding steady
In France, variations in decarbonised energy generation mostly reflect fluctuations in nuclear power output, which is largely predominant in the French energy mix.
Contrary to other European countries, France has not significantly increased its decarbonised electricity production since the 2000s. Hydropower generation has been more or less stable for 30 years now. Nuclear generation has been gradually contracting since 2005, due to the lesser availability of nuclear power plants (maintenance, ten-year inspections). Solar and wind power alone have increased in the past 20 years.
Under the National Low-Carbon Strategy scenario, by 2050, France’s CO2-eq emissions will have fallen to a level that can be considered incompressible, particularly for non-energy sectors (agriculture and industrial processes): about 80 Mt.
The National Low-Carbon Strategy report calls for the energy sector to be completely decarbonised by 2050, relying exclusively on the following energy sources: biomass resources (agricultural waste and wood products, wood energy, etc.), heat from the environment (geothermal, heat pumps, etc.) and decarbonised electricity.
CO2-eq emissions from different sectors
In 2019, CO2 equivalent (CO2-eq) emissions in France, across all sectors, reached an estimated 441 million tonnes. Electricity generation represented about 4.8 % of this total. CO2-eq emissions were highest in France in the transport and manufacturing industries.
Citepa data. Secten report, 2020 edition
|CO2 emissions excluding self-consumption (millions of tonnes)||2020||2019|
|of which coal||1,2||1,4|
|of which oil||0,8||0,9|
|of which gas||13,5||14,8|
|Municipal waste (incineration)||1,6||1,6|