As of 2022, France holds the 10th position globally in hydropower, boasting an installed capacity of 25.9 gigawatts. This piece will centre on the French government’s aspirations concerning hydropower and shed light on the forthcoming hydropower plants. I will also talk about prominent companies within the hydropower industry and the challenges faced by the sector. Hydropower will be crucial in France’s quest to reach net zero by 2050.
According to the draft NECP by the French Ministry of Energy Transition, the 2030 target for onshore wind is 33 GW to 35 GW, offshore wind 4 GW, and hydroelectricity 26 GW. The government has also introduced a hydrogen target of 6.5 GW by 2030 and 10 GW by 2035. France plans to install 100 Gigawatt of solar power and 40 Gigawatt offshore wind energy by 2050.
It continues to underscore that hydropower may not play a significant role in the future of renewable energy. Despite the construction of new hydropower plants listed below, their capacities are relatively small.
Upcoming Small hydropower plants:
- The Sarenne hydropower project is in Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, owned and developed by CN’Air SASAU. It is under construction and expected to be operational in 2023 with an 11-megawatt capacity.
- Vallabregues hydropower project is in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, owned and developed by Compagnie Nationale du Rhone. It is under construction and expected to be operational in 2025 with an 8.20-megawatt capacity.
- The Parpaillon hydropower project is in Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur, owned and developed by Centrale Hydroelectrique du Parpaillon. It is under construction and expected to be operational in 2025 with a 7.6-megawatt capacity.
- The Nyer Canal Hydroelectric Power Station is in France, owned and developed by Soc Hydro-Electr Canal de Nyer. Construction is for 2026, with operations set to commence in 2028
, boasting a capacity of 5.618 megawatts.
- The Oche Power Station is situated in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and is owned and set to be developed by Birseck Hydro. It is at the permitting stage, with construction to begin in 2025 and operations in 2027 with a 5.2-megawatt capacity.
- Engie, headquartered in Paris, was founded in 1946. It is a leading independent power producer operating 61 power plants, including 12 hydroelectric plants. It is also engaged in using natural gas and providing energy services.
- Total Eren, headquartered in Paris, was founded in 2012. A renewable energy company performs engineering, procurement and construction contracts and provides operations and maintenance services.
- Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, headquartered in Lyon, was founded in 1983. A renewable energy company develops and operates solar, wind and hydropower plants.
- Omexom, headquartered in Puteaux, was founded in 2000. The entity operates as an electricity producer, distributor, and project operator in the realm of renewable energy, encompassing projects involving wind and solar energy, nuclear power, and hydropower.
- Hynamics, headquartered in Paris, was founded in 2019. As a subsidiary of Electricité de France, it develops low-carbon hydrogen—an emerging technology aimed at sectors where the direct use of electricity is not feasible.
- The foremost challenge is climate change, as it amplifies the frequency and intensity of precipitation while hastening snow melting. These factors can result in floods and threaten the integrity of hydropower projects.
- The second issue is the increasing number of droughts affecting hydropower generation. For instance, hydropower generation was reduced by 22 % in 2022 due to severe drought in the country.
- The third impediment is the disproportionate focus on solar and wind energy, potentially causing the hydropower sector to fall behind despite its current status as the second-largest source of electricity generation.
In conclusion, France, ranking 10th globally in hydropower, is overshadowed by solar and wind energy. For instance, onshore wind, offshore wind, and solar power dominate discussions, and hydropower’s role in achieving France’s 2050 net-zero goal is uncertain. Small-scale projects like Sarenne and Vallabregues signify growth, but challenges persist. Climate change-induced threats, including floods and droughts, jeopardise hydropower’s stability. Despite being the second-largest electricity source, the sector risks overshadowing the spotlight on solar and wind. Balancing attention and mitigating climate risks is vital for hydropower to sustain its contribution to France’s resilient energy future.