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Franco-German summit calls for greater co-operation on renewables

Merkel and Hollande say a new cross-border venture will promote renewables, help hasten move away from fossil fuels

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By John McGarrity

France and Germany have outlined general plans for stronger co-operation on green technologies to drive down costs and protect jobs in green industries from foreign competition.

French President Francois Hollande said at a joint press conference today the two countries “were in complete agreement to lead an ambitious energy transition,”  adding that they would create a platform to promote energy efficiency, fund renewables and encourage energy storage.

The countries stopped far short of Hollande’s call in January for the two countries to create an energy ‘Airbus’ to combine Franco-German expertise in renewables under the umbrella of one giant company.

Today’s summit is part of a wider agenda to discuss what the France is calling “a revival of Europe,” where cooperation between the two large neighbours would help drive forward wider EU policy on defence, internet security and energy policy.

Germany’s energy transition to replace ageing nuclear and fossil fuels plants has fostered huge growth in renewables in this decade, with solar plants able to meet up to half of the country’s power demand during the sunniest periods of the day.

A nuclear-dependent energy mix in France draws much less on wind and solar, but with many of the country’s atomic power plants expected to close in the next few decades, the country is keen to diversify in favour of renewables.

 

Northern and western France have the best resources to harness wind power while sunny southern regions would be most likely to put solar power plants.

Meanwhile, grid connections are less complicated than in Germany, said David Buchan of the UK’s Oxford Energy Institute in a report last month.

But the increased costs of renewable energy is unpopular with some companies that are a big users of energy, which for decades have been used to relatively stable prices driven by nuclear.

Germany and France signed a letter late last year with six other EU member states calling for a binding 2030 renewable energy target to protect jobs in green technologies and create new ones in the sector.

Proposals from the European Commission last month instead recommended an EU-wide target, after countries such as the UK and Poland lobbied against national thresholds so they can use nuclear, gas from shale deposits and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.

But companies that manufacture solar panels and wind turbines say EU countries need to agree a stronger incentives for renewables as governments negotiate the terms of a 2030 climate and energy package over the next year.

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