The French Government, like the other EU Member States, is faced with the complex task of involving the entire population in the process of making the French economy climate neutral by 2050. As it turns out, there are concerns about this. “It’s not just about devising the very best new renewable energy technology,” said Laurent Michel, Director General of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity, at InnoEnergy’s conference on innovative energy start-ups held in Paris last week.

Low incomes

It is very important that scientists invent new and better technology, Michel pointed out. For example, think of better batteries for electric cars that will have a greater range as a result. “But this should be accessible to all low-income households as well.”

“They must also be able to participate in the energy transition. The transition to products that use renewable energy will have the greatest impact on them.” After all, they have very little money to spare and therefore run the risk of running into problems if they have to buy new appliances that they cannot afford. At the same time, subsidies for innovative energy applications are paid out of the tax revenue that they themselves contribute to.

That this paradox exists is obvious, even if the French senior official did not explicitly refer to it.

Millions for energy start-ups

As is the case with the other European member states, France has prepared a roadmap to meet the EU’s 2030 target. Each EU member state must emit 45% less CO2 than it does at present. All economic processes must be free of CO2 emissions by 2050. This task requires a major upheaval of the industry. In France, this industry is predominantly based on energy from fossil and nuclear sources. France will have to make the switch to the production of renewable energy. The same applies to French households.

According to the French climate change official, the government is committed to subsidizing start-ups that are developing forms for renewable energy generation or energy conservation. Many millions are being made available for this. In the so-named PPE plan, launched at the beginning of this year, the French Government promised to double the production of renewable energy within 10 years. Wind and solar energy will be used first and foremost for this purpose. The country also wants to close four to six nuclear power stations. France emits relatively little CO2 within Europe, mainly due to the large use of nuclear power stations. Several of these are outdated.

Sociological framework

Nevertheless, the aim is for everyone to be able to benefit from this, Michel said. “It is important for the state to develop a sociological framework whereby all French citizens will be able to participate”.

An initial condition is that French citizens first accept that the transition will actually take place. Otherwise, they will not take part. “That’s a challenge,” according to Michel. But once that has been achieved, our citizens must be given the opportunity to demonstrate their willingness to do so. Which means that if they want to recycle plastic so as to conserve raw materials and energy, they need to be able to do that somewhere. That’s what the French government must do when it comes to guiding society.

Call for proposals

The goal is for French buildings to undergo thorough renovations which will drastically cut down on their energy consumption, Michel states. Transport must be innovated. Engines should run as much as possible on electricity and hydrogen. In his view, this also applies to heavy trucks and other industrial transport.

Start-up entrepreneurs in France who have come up with ideas for this are able to count on subsidies from the French state. “A call for proposals was issued in September for this,” Michel says.

Director-General Laurent Michel of the French Ministry of Ecology and Solidarity Photo: InnoEnergy

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