10/02 Behrang Shirizadeh

Reaching carbon neutrality in France by 2050: Optimal choice of energy sources, carriers and storage options

Behrang Shirizadeh, sous la direction de Philippe Quirion.


At 2:30pm in virtual


To stay in line with 1.5°C of global warming, the French government has adopted the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The main greenhouse gas being carbon dioxide, and the majority of its emissions being due to energy combustion, this dissertation focuses on reaching carbon-neutrality in French energy-related CO2 emissions by 2050. This thesis dissertation aims to study the relative role of different low-carbon mitigation options in the energy sector in reaching carbon-neutrality. More precisely, this thesis first studies the French power sector, first in a fully renewable power system, and second in a power system containing other mitigation options i.e. nuclear energy and carbon capture and storage. I study the impact of uncertainties related to cost development of renewables and storage options and address the robustness of a fully renewable power system to cost uncertainties. Later, adding other low-carbon mitigation options in the power sector, I analyze the relative role of different low-carbon options. Similarly, to incentivize the investments in variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power, I study the investment risk related to the price and volume volatility of renewable electricity technologies, and the performance of different public policy support schemes. The analysis in this thesis goes beyond the electricity system and it also considers the whole energy system in the presence of sector- coupling.

During this thesis, I have developed a family of models optimizing dispatch and investment to answer different questions regarding the French energy transition. These models minimize the cost of the considered system (electricity system or the whole energy system) by satisfying the supply/demand equilibrium at each hour over at least one year, respecting the main technical and operational, resource related and land-use constraints. Thus, both short-term and long-term variability of renewable energy sources are taken into account. Using these models, I address the questions raised above. These models are not used to find a single optimal solution, but several optimal solutions depending on different weather, cost, energy demand and technology availability scenarios. Therefore, the importance of robustness to the uncertainties is at the center of the used methodology beside optimality. The findings of my thesis show that renewable energy supply sources are the main enablers of reaching carbon neutrality in a cost-effective way, no matter the considered energy system; either only electricity or the whole energy system. While the elimination of nuclear power barely increases the cost of a carbon-neutral energy system, the elimination of renewables is associated with high inefficiencies both from the cost and emission points of view. In fact, if renewable gas is not available, even a social cost of carbon of €500/tCO2 will not be enough to reach carbon- neutrality. This is partially due to the negative emissions that it can provide once combined with carbon capture and storage, and partially due to the cost-optimality of renewable gas-fired internal combustion engines in reaching carbon-neutrality in the transport sector.

This dissertation has several important policy-related messages; however, the central one is that reaching carbon-neutrality for the lowest cost requires a highly renewable energy system. Therefore, if we are to prioritize investment in low-carbon options, renewable gas and electricity technologies are of the highest importance.