Anti-Fracking Campaign Sends France’s Energy Industry Reeling

Chris White | Energy Reporter

France has slowly become a net importer of electricity thanks in large part to a harsh winter and a growing opposition to natural gas production.

France, usually a net energy exporter, was forced to import a record 950 gigawatt-hours of power in January, the highest level in more than 30 years. The country is scrambling to develop a fledgling green energy industry and revamp its 58 nuclear facilities.

It spent $307 million on electricity imports in January, compared with $60 million for the same month in 2016, according to data from the country’s energy minister.

French officials banned fracking in 2011, forcing the country to import 40 percent of its natural gas from U.S. fracking. They announced last year they are looking to ban the import of fracked natural gas from the U.S.

The Western European country holds unproven technically recoverable shale wet gas reserves of 136.7 trillion cubic feet, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

France’s untapped natural gas resources fall short of the estimated 622.5 trillion cubic feet of wet shale gas in the U.S.

Government officials have also targeted the country’s coal industry.

France instituted a carbon tax last April, which was intended to shutter the last coal power plants “by 2023 at the latest.” The government was forced to scrap the tax because of the toll it was taking on the coal industry and on the country’s energy production.

There is evidence the country’s war on coal played a part in the need to become a net energy importer this winter.

“However, given the high sensitivity of French electricity consumption to cold temperatures and the fact that the French production fleet has fallen due to coal plant closures, this issue will be present every year, maybe not to the extent we saw this winter,” Utomi Odozi of Freepoint Commodities, a European oil and gas investor, told reporters.

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