How the energy industry spearheads Sino-French cooperation?


Fabrice Fourcade, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is the President of France-China Electricity Partnership Association, and French power giant Electricite de France’s chief representative in China. The article reflects the author’s views and not necessarily those of CGTN.

Electricite de France (EDF) is a leading player in the energy transition, a global and integrated electricity company, active in all aspects of the business.

The story of EDF in China began with the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant. Since EDF participated in the first large-scale nuclear power project in China in the mid-1980s, the company has been at the forefront of Sino-foreign energy cooperation. Indeed, EDF has been operating in China for more than 40 years and is now one of China’s largest foreign investors in electricity generation.

For instance, back in 2019, at the Elysee Palace in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping signed a cooperation agreement for the Dongtai offshore wind power project, which is the first Sino-foreign offshore wind farm in China, located in eastern coastal Jiangsu Province. This wind farm is jointly operated by EDF and China Energy Investment Corporation. This innovative project, along with other emerging technologies we are developing, demonstrates that EDF is again at the forefront of Sino-foreign industrial cooperation.

My own story with China started a couple of years ago back in 2016. At that time, we diversified EDF’s business portfolio. For nearly 10 years, we have accompanied China’s energy market to become greener, more open and more distributed. From nuclear and thermal activities, we extended our activities to  renewables, to energy distribution, to low carbon energy services as well as innovative digital and market-oriented solutions. We also had a try in the electric mobility business. Many of our experiences proved successful. Few failed. Failures are also an integral part of innovation, so long as you fail fast. We learnt a lot from all our experiences.

Over the course of my exciting eight-year professional adventure in China, I discovered that China is changing, and changing fast. Electricity market reform has deepened and has started to open to competition in 2015, though with specific practices which differ from the ones in place in the Europe Union (EU).

Renewable energy rapidly expanded too, in line with China’s commitment to its carbon reduction targets: peak by 2030 and neutrality by 2060, though energy security still takes precedence. In 2018, I saw the Taishan reactor start supplying power to the grid, which is the first third-generation “evolutionary power reactor” (EPR) using French technology to become operational. A few years later, China’s own third generation nuclear reactor fleet experienced success and has come online. I witnessed the huge efforts and investments of our partners for more innovation, and cutting-edge technology development.

These changes bring new business opportunities to EDF in China, provided stable regulation and sound contracting is ensured. These changes also open doors for new, meaningful and high-quality cooperation together with our Chinese partners, including large companies like China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN), China Datang Corporation (CDT), China Energy Investment Corporation, China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC), State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC) etc. or more academic institutions like Xi’an Jiaotong University in northwest China.

For sure, the changes also bring difficulties. After long-term partnering in thermal generation, in order to mitigate climate change, EDF pledged in 2018 to transition away from coal everywhere in the world. Although a coal phase-out is challenging, we believe that it is meaningful for our Chinese partners to work together with EDF towards a greener energy transition.

Again, besides the much-needed energy transition that China also cherishes, we believe that the consistency of existing contracts and regulation are the foundation for a business-friendly environment. It complements the stable and long-term cooperation that we have been promoting here in China for years. Indeed, a long-term relationship between companies and between people is the most important ingredient to trust.

EDF in China is also a microcosm for France-China cooperation. Its success lies first on the people and their mutual understanding. This means understanding each others’ culture, work ethic, traditions and languages. EDF, for our part, encourages the mobility of our staff from one country to another. In the spirit of mutual understanding, EDF offers Chinese language courses for French staff and French language courses for Chinese staff.

My journeys around China often make me think about an old Chinese saying. “Although the road is long, as long as we go, we’ll arrive.” It’s the same for Sino-French cooperation.

2024 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, as well as the China-France Year of Culture and Tourism. In this year full of hope and opportunity, French companies will further dive into the Chinese market to seek fruitful and innovative development. EDF is committed to promoting green and low-carbon development in France, in the EU and worldwide, including of course in China. We will continue an open and in-depth conversation with our partners to enrich our valuable friendship. We believe that balanced relations, together with trust, respect and stability, will further consolidate our partnerships and open new innovative doors.


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