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The French Building Windmills

by on February 2, 2011

Thanks to environmental concerns, 2015 may see the advent of wind power but it will not kill off nuclear power stations and cheap energy in France First Published on The Graduate Times.

With the advent of the Fifth Republic, France soon found itself in a decade of Gaullist reform. In a country that is often opposed to reform, French Nuclear Power should be hailed as a major success story. This reform led to France having low electricity costs, which makes it a favorable location for business, especially when power is a major input for production. An extra benefit is that its power is also low on CO2. Furthermore many other European countries benefit from this as 18% of its energy is exported.

This, however, is about to change as politicians are about to make a major policy blunder. In 2015 France will enter into the offshore wind arena. The government hopes that France’s expansion in offshore wind will boost employment; the ever-optimistic Nicholas Sarkozy stated that this will eventually represent 10,000 jobs in sectors such as construction and maritime services. There is a catch! According to documents released on Wednesday 26th January by the Environment and Energy Ministry, this will bring about a 4% rise in consumer power prices at 25 euros per household per year. France will have 24.8 million households in 2015, the total social cost of subsidies for these wind farms alone will be 612.5 million or 61,250 euros per job per year.

I am not saying that the people involved in the wind turbine will have salaries equal to 61,000 euros a year. I am just illustrating the fact that it is a rather expensive way to create that many jobs. One could pay 10,000 people 61,250 euro to do nothing all day and everybody would be as well off (minus the hassle of actually building the windmills).

I can hear people saying that this is worth it for the windmills. The fact is that windmills will not get rid of the nuclear power plants. Windmills will simply make everybody’s electricity more expensive in a country that is already exporting a large amount of its extremely cheap energy. Energy produced by windmills is notoriously unpredictable; I can tell you with 98% certainly what the demand for electricity will be tomorrow. You will, however, not even be able to tell me with 90% certainty how fast the wind will be tomorrow let alone how much energy the windmills will actually produce.

To make matters worse high prices will not only affect the poor French, but Brits too. This is in part because the current government is going down the same doomed path, but also because much of the French exported nuclear power goes to England. The French having their heads in the sky will make life more expensive for all of us.

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