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SAINT-NAZAIRE, France — French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday called for a “massive acceleration” of renewable energy development in his country, including offshore wind farms and solar, through a new plan that aims to bring lagging France closer to the energy policies of its European neighbours.

The move comes amid a major energy crisis in Europe, exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Macron wants France to have more independence in the field of electricity production.

“The war changed everything… it disrupted the European model, because many countries depended on Russian gas for (energy) production. And it is clear that energy has become a weapon of war for the first time,” Macron emphasized in his speech in Saint-Nazaire, a port city in western France.

Macron boarded a boat on Thursday morning to visit France’s first offshore wind farm off the Atlantic coast.

He then elaborated a series of measures to accelerate renewable energy projects. A bill will be presented next week at a cabinet meeting.

“We need a huge acceleration,” Macron said. “I want us to go at least twice as fast for renewable energy projects. … “our neighbors have often managed to do more, better and most importantly, faster.”

Macron’s new strategy comes as a long-term response to the energy crisis, but it won’t help address shorter-term challenges. France and other European countries fear electricity shortages this winter as Russia cut stocks of cheap natural gas on which the continent depended for years to run factories, generate electricity and heat homes.

France’s energy strategy has long been based on developing nuclear energy – based on imported uranium – which supplies about 67% of France’s electricity, more than any other country.

Macron announced plans at the beginning of the year to build six new nuclear reactors and extend the life of its existing nuclear plants as part of the country’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

But to reduce France’s reliance on gas and oil globally, renewable energy must also be promoted, he said.

France had previously set a target to increase its renewables to 23% by 2020, but only managed to reach 19%. That leaves the country 17th in the European Union, below the 22% average in the bloc of 27 countries, according to the latest statistics.

Despite the thousands of kilometers (miles) of coastline of France, only the Saint-Nazaire offshore wind farm, with its 80 turbines, has been established so far. Macron set a goal to build about 50 similar wind farms in France by 2050.

He also hopes to multiply the amount of solar energy produced by 10 and double the capacity of onshore wind farms in the same period.

New measures aim to reduce construction and launch delays for offshore wind farms from 10-12 years now to about six years, and large solar farms from 6 years to 3 years, Macron said.

The new bill will also aim to provide grid connections as soon as a new facility is ready – rather than a delay of up to three years now.

Other planned measures include building solar parks on wasteland along highways, railways and in parking garages.

Under certain conditions, solar farms on agricultural lands will also be encouraged, including by keeping them small to preserve fields for the food industry.

The bill should guarantee local communities money to see local benefits from the energy shift, Macron said.

Macron added that he hopes to take the “same approach” to nuclear power, speeding up and simplifying procedures to build new reactors faster.

Currently, about half of France’s 56 nuclear reactors, all operated by EDF, have been shut down for normal maintenance and, in some cases, to repair corrosion problems. The government said this month that EDF has committed to restarting them all this winter.

The French government has warned that a worst-case scenario could lead to power cuts in French homes, and officials have presented a plan to cut energy consumption by 10% by 2024.

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Sylvie Corbet reported from Paris.

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Follow all CEN stories on climate change issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment.

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France’s Macron seeks ‘huge’ boost for renewable energy – Canada Express News

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