Futuribles Journal n° 447

Économie, emploi - Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement - Société, modes de vie

Time for Decisions on the Energy Transition


In 2020, we at Futuribles began a series of articles devoted specifically to the ecological and energy transition. In recent months, a number of organizations have made public various studies aimed at fuelling the debate on reaching carbon neutrality by 2050, the target adopted by France (and the EU) in the fight against climate change. Pierre Papon has examined and compared the main publications proposing energy transition scenarios or action plans for France up to 2050 (from the French environmental and energy agency ADEME, the French electricity network RTE, NégaWatt and the Shift Project). In this article, he takes a look at the lessons to be drawn from them, thus completing the series launched in 2020.

In all cases, the roadmap that emerges is an unambiguous one: new ways of living must be promoted to reduce French energy consumption substantially. This involves primarily a change to eating habits, renovating and converting housing stock, and encouraging new modes of transport. In pursuit of these goals, the energy choices differ across the various scenarios but, as Pierre Papon shows, the contribution to be made by electricity increases in each, its production being based on what is itself a substantial rise in the part played by renewables, the question of the use of nuclear energy being more controversial in the analyses; several different sets of figures are put forward on this. There is also an emphasis on the de-carbonization of industry and agriculture and a range of estimates are advanced on the potential impact on employment of the future transformations. Nevertheless, as Pierre Papon reminds us, the energy transition and the scenarios proposed for supporting it still depend on many unknowns, particularly with regard to technology. And from the social point of view, given the time horizons, the inertia that pertains in the sectors concerned (housing, transport etc.) and in our ways of life, and the necessary costs and investments, there is an urgent need for wide consultation with citizens and detailed planning of the policies that are actually meant to bring about this essential transition.

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