3.3. 3: Choice of Energy Sources

December 6th, 2011

The choice of energy sources that a nation or society uses is very much dependent upon several factors. These include available energy resources, population size, historical energy use, needs of industry, available technology and political direction.

France provides a good case study of a MEDC country with a defined energy strategy. Energy in France in the main involves the production of electricity and fuel for homes and transport needs. Traditionally the needs of electricity generation was served by the French coal industry making use of coal mainly from the French coal fields of Alsace and Lorraine. However growing environmental awareness and increasing costs of French coal compared to highly subsidised coal from developing nations menat that since the 1960s France has phased out it reliance on coal with the last coal mine closing in 2004.

Unlike the United Kingdom or Norway, France has no oil reserves of its own. therefore a policy of building nuclear power stations was started in the 1950s and accelerated over the next half century, so that over 75% of Frances electricity production is provided by nuclear power. This makes France the worlds biggest producer of electricity from nuclear power. France is even an exporter of electricity with 18% of production supplying Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK.

Following the 1973 oil crisis France found itself dependent upon imported crude oil. This dependence spurred France to develop its own energy security through the use of nuclear power to provide low cost, CO2 neutral electricity. Following the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan in 2010, there are calls in France to move away from nuclear power.

Nuclear power is not the only source of electricity in France, but it is still substantially the biggest. Hydroelectric, solar and wind generation provide a much smaller supply. Wind generation though visible in many parts of France is much smaller than in neighbouring Belgium or Germany.

Energy supply for transport is still dominated by imported petroleum products.

Energy use within the home is again dominated by electricity given Frances surplus, with French consumers being used to relatively cheap electricity.

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