Marine Le Pen, the head of the far-right National Rally (RN) party, has said she would take down France’s wind turbines and end subsidies for renewable energy if she was victorious in next year’s presidential elections.
She told French radio broadcaster RTL last week she would stop any wind farms that were under construction and launch a large demolition programme to dismantle those already built.
“I am not Emmanuel Macron, I have clear positions, I have convictions,” she said. “I do not change. I say in advance what I would do because I believe in it.”
The French wind sector began installing onshore turbines in 1996 and presently has around 17.5GW of capacity.
The level of subsidies to French renewables is between €6bn and €7bn a year, according to Le Pen. She said she would cut this and use the money to reduce tax on electricity bills, which she said was running at 16%.
Environment Minister Barbara Pompili responded on Twitter that Le Pen’s proposal would deprive France of at least 8% of its generating capacity despite an expected 20% growth in demand over the next 15 years. “She would plunge us into blackouts,” she said.
Opposition to onshore wind turbines has become a hallmark of France’s right-wing parties in recent years, and has emerged as a significant electoral issue.
In July the Republican party’s senators were successful in inserting a clause into climate legislation giving mayors the right to veto turbines.
Meanwhile the RN has claimed that they are destroying France’s national heritage, and Stéphane Bern, a popular historian and chronicler of European royalty, recently inveighed against “the anarchic multiplication of wind turbines … this religion of progress that through dogmatism and ideology is disfiguring our landscapes, destroying natural sites and polluting our environment”.
At present, Le Pen is running third in French opinion polls, with 15% of those surveyed saying they would vote for her party. Emmanuel Macron is at 25% and right-wing media star Eric Zemmour has risen from zero to 16% in a matter of weeks, although he has not yet declared his candidacy.
Le Pen is strongly in favour of nuclear energy – backing the industry’s plans to build new reactors and refurbish the existing fleet, as well as moving ahead with small modular units (see further reading).
The Reuters news agency notes that France produces about 75% of its power in nuclear plants, but lags far behind Germany and other European nations in wind and solar investment.
Image: Turbines in the Champagne-Ardenne department. Wind has become a hot-button electoral issue in France (Markentoine/CC BY-SA 3.0)