PARIS, May 17 Green activist Nicolas Hulot was appointed as the minister responsible for environment and energy in the new French government on Wednesday, sending the share price of nuclear utility EDF down as much as seven percent.
EDF shares had rallied strongly since the election of centrist Emmanuel Macron as president on May 7 as investors expected a pro-nuclear energy policy from the new government.
But the appointment of Hulot – France’s best-known environmental campaigner and a former television documentary maker – as ecology minister raised doubts in investors’ minds about the strength of that commitment.
“The market is reacting negatively to Hulot’s appointment. There is a fear of a stricter ecological line given Hulot’s history as an environmental campaigner,” said Andrea Tueni, markets analyst with Saxo Bank. […]
In an interview with Liberation newspaper last month, Hulot said one of France’s main challenges will be to reposition EDF on a path that is compatible with a transition from dependence on nuclear power towards the use of more renewables.
“While elsewhere the energy transition accelerates, EDF gets closer to Areva, overinvests in costly nuclear projects like Hinkley Point, and does not invest enough in renewables,” he told the paper.
Asked by Le Parisien newspaper in March whether France should stop using nuclear energy, he said: “That is a medium-term target”.
“As renewable energy becomes more and more competitive, the nuclear industry business model belongs to the past,” he said.
Asked about a possible closure of the ageing Fessenheim nuclear plant, which former President Francois Hollande promised but did not implement, Hulot said the closure was important but would have a social cost.
“We cannot impose a transition by force. The transition has to be done in an acceptable manner,” he said.
Unlike his predecessor Segolene Royal, who was minister of energy and environment, Hulot’s job title, “minister of ecology and solidarity”, does not mention energy, but government sources told Reuters he will be responsible for energy matters.