Former green lawmaker, Francois de Rugy, has been named France’s energy and environment minister, replacing environmental activist Nicolas Hulot.
De Rugy will be responsible for preparing President Emmanuel Macron’s energy-policy road map for the next ten years, which aims to reduce the use of nuclear power.
He will find opposition from Electricite de France SA, the operator of the nation’s 58 atomic reactors, which is trying to convince Macron to build new reactors to replace part of its aging fleet.
The appointment of the new energy minister was welcomed with mixed opinions, especially from environmentalists.
“He’s not the most vocally anti-nuclear person you’ve ever met,” said Charlotte Mijeon, a spokeswoman for Sortir du Nucleaire, a French anti-nuclear energy association. “He’s always been seen as quite moderate, eager to make compromises.”
"He has a history of commitment to the environment, particularly with his anti-nuclear stance. The fear is that without any change on the part of Emmanuel Macron, there is little chance Francois de Rugy will do any better than Nicolas Hulot," said Jean-Francois Julliard, head of Greenpeace France.
Daniel Bour, Chairman of Enerplan, a federation of solar power companies, welcomed De Rugy’s appointment and urged him to continue his predecessor’s efforts to develop clean energies.
Macron picked the professional politician to stabilise his administration and raise the lowest approval ratings since May 2017.
Rugy was previously speaker of France’s lower house. In the early 1990s he joined the Generation Ecologie political movement and continued his local political career focused on green movements. In 2017, he sought the left’s nomination for the presidential race but won just 3.8%.