ENVIRONNEMENT/Creation of a green fund, publication of a White Paper, the environment code… Monaco is beginning its energy transition. Focus.
No need to get earplugs! During the second Monaco ePrix event on 13 May, spectators admired the circuit laps punctuated by braking and other tyre noises without noise pollution. Eco-friendly racing cars generate 80 decibels. That’s far from the 135 decibels of a standard Formula 1 car, equivalent to the noise generated by an aircraft engine or a gun shot. Beyond the spectacle and innovation of this new sports discipline, for Monaco the organisation of an electric Grand Prix symbolises a change in mentality. And the proof? While the manufacturers, from BMW to Renault and Jaguar and maybe soon Ferrari, are now espousing electric cars, the general public is also starting to take an interest – albeit timidly – in Formula E performance. “10 years ago I’d have never imagined such consensus around eco-friendly vehicles, now translated into car racing. Electric power was only good for Post Office vehicles,” says Raoul Viora, president of the environmental association Monaco Développement Durable (MC2D).
Acceleration with the Paris Accord
Monaco already began its energy transition some years ago. The administration’s car fleet, hybrid buses, electric bicycles, car-sharing, etc. “It’s now 15 years that we’ve been working on the clean mobility,” emphasises Bernard Fautrier, vice-president of the Albert II Foundation. “Maybe we were in energy transition almost automatically and spontaneously – without knowing it.” All the same. Cop21 and the Paris Accord on climate change have provided substantial acceleration. In France the energy transition law for green growth was passed in summer 2015 with tough objectives: increasing the nuclear energy share of French electricity generation to 50% by 2025, reducing national greenhouse gas emissions by 40% from 1990 to 2030, and halving final energy consumption in France by 2050 (from the 2012 level). While Switzerland has just voted to phase out nuclear power, which currently supplies 35% of country’s electricity. The Swiss law intends to promote renewables such as hydro, solar, geothermal and biomass energy. The objective is to quadruple the contribution of the so-called “energy mix” to national electricity generation in 18 years.
Objective: carbon neutrality by 2050
In Monaco too, a strong start has been made. And for good reason. Driven by Prince Albert II, Monaco is aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050. And 50% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030. A national green fund, fuelled with 5 million euro in 2016, was created “to capitalise with a view to the realisation of large collective installations for renewables generation,” Prince Albert announced in late 2015. The question everyone is now asking is how to get there? It necessarily means a massive reduction in the three main sources of greenhouse gas emissions: heating, refuse treatment and traffic.
In energy terms, this means developing at La Condamine and Larvotto the eco-friendly system of seawater heat pumps that now produces almost 20% of Monaco’s energy needs. This is revolutionary technology, of which Monaco has shown itself to be a precursor. “I was a young boy when they installed the first heat pump, in the late 50s, to air-condition the administrative hub. At that time, the engineer who invented the procedure was the laughing stock of the population, who stubbornly defended fuel oil! The system was groundbreaking in the end, and Monaco now has 70 heat pumps!” says Bernard Fautrier.
At the same time, Monaco is starting its campaign against fossil fuels. If oil heating is to be eradicated by 2022, “it will take longer for gas,” says Bernard Fautrier, according to whom we will have to wait until 2030 or 2035. The vice-president of the FPA2, who is also Minister Plenipotentiary, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister on sustainable development issues, puts his faith in the development of geothermal energy. Namely the exploitation of heat stored below the ground. “In the upper districts of Monaco, this solution is simpler than raising seawater to operate heating and air conditioning. Hot water deposits are found at less than 2000m and can be a major source of energy. Surveys are under consideration.” explains Bernard Fautrier, who is on a working team for this technology.
This solution would at the same time allow replacement of the integrated heating system at Fontvieille incineration plant, should Monaco ever abandon the concept of incinerating its waste in town. Nothing could be less certain today but the idea is progressing. After great discussion with the Union Monégasque parliamentary opposition – embodied by the Robillon/Grinda/Pasquier trio – the call for tenders for construction of a new waste-to-energy plant will therefore be opened up to all waste treatment methods. Investing 110 million euro—the estimated total cost – in an incineration plant “next to a secondary school, 200 metres from the new hospital, and to be inaugurated by Prince Albert, the champion of ecology, is the most idiotic idea in the world!” Jean-Louis Grinda, president of the National Council Environment Committee, repeats tirelessly.
In Monaco, the environmentalists believe that incineration is simply a thing of the past. “This plant accounts for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. We must find the least emitting solution if we want to meet our carbon neutrality objective by 2050!” Bernard Fautrier thunders. The Foundation head is one of those who believes that what remains to be incinerated in 15 years’time will be marginal. “When the plant was designed 35 years ago, 45 000 tonnes of waste were incinerated and it was thought that by 2010, 110 000 tonnes would be burned, given the economic development of the financial centre. But at the peak, we have never exceeded 65 000 tonnes!” laughs Bernard Fautrier, who firmly believes in a zero-waste Monaco. He adds: “Selective sorting has grown, and we will create a circular economy where recycling will be increasingly important.”
At MC2D they are also campaigning for a zero-waste Principality in 10 years. “There’s no reason why it should take any longer,” notes Raoul Viora. While the environmentalist believes that “Monaco must retain autonomy on its waste treatment policy,” he nevertheless clearly shows his preference for a waste-to-energy, composting or methanation centre. In short: anything but incineration.
“We must avoid contradictory signals”
At MC2D, they have been fighting for years to influence the government’s environmental policy. The environmental association has therefore always censured construction of the downward tunnel linking Boulevard du Jardin Exotique to Cap d’Ail. “This tunnel, which certainly has the merit of reducing central traffic jams, encourages people to drive to Monaco. No other city builds such tunnels now. In Paris the urban motorways are being withdrawn. It makes the population scream but people adapt in the end!” sighs the president Raoul Viora, who regrets “contradictory signals” being given. Since its foundation 13 years ago, MC2D has advocated creating a park-and-ride facility in the Brasca area on the Moyenne Corniche, and a mini-metro – comparable to those seen in ski resorts – for getting to Monaco. “The government has been analysing this solution for 13 years,” regrets Raoul Viora, who puts forward another plan – finally creating a funicular railway starting from La Turbie. At present, only an urban cable car next to the future 1880-space park-and-ride terminal at Monaco’s west entrance seems to be on the government’s drawing board. If it sees the light of day, this mode of public transport could serve Fontvieille and even the Rocher and the harbour.
A Nice-Monaco RER?
To limit mobility-related greenhouse gas emissions, Raoul Viora believes the SNCF traffic congestion issue must be solved first of all. “Monaco train station is no. 3 in the region and no. 2 in the department. Yet Monaco is currently unknown to SNCF plans. As part of the new PACA line – former high-speed line – the Nice-Ventimiglia section has been postponed to 2050 ! In the medium term, Monaco needs to get a second station and a second railway tunnel to be able to piggyback and transform the current line into an RER.”