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L’énergie dans le développement de la Nouvelle-Calédonie

Yves Le Bars
Elsa Faugère
Philippe Menanteau
et al.

Energy management: a major challenge for New Caledonia’s sustainable development and its energy security

Energy in theory and practice

Texte intégral


1Current attitudes to energy, to which we have access, stem mainly from those with a direct interest in energy-related matters. Conversely, little is known about what the majority of the inhabitants of New Caledonia actually think, as no sociological or anthropological surveys have been conducted in this field. It is nevertheless possible to put forward a number of theories, on the basis of anthropological studies of environmental issues, mining and deciduous forests in New Caledonia, in a press review, which we compiled using the daily paper Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, and based discussions that we had during our trip to Nouméa in March 2009.

2The question of practices poses similar problems. In effect, there are no studies outlining and analysing practices in terms of energy and demand side management by the various categories of the population. Although an ISEE survey into household consumption habits is being undertaken at the very time when this report is being written, this particular investigation is suffering from a lack of data on this subject.

Criticism from organisations

3Ecological organisations have strongly criticised the energy choices made by the government, which is accused of favouring only the mining industry to the detriment of the population and the environment, of being responsible for the excessively high energy dependence of New Caledonia and of hindering the development of renewable energies and demand side management for which they are campaigning.

4Action Biosphère has denounced what it sees as collusion between the French state, the government of New Caledonia, the electricity companies and the mine operators. The latter actually benefit from preferential kWh rates, while even the poorest households pay full price for their electricity, which, according to the organisation, is equivalent to a hidden subsidy with the added bonus of a tax rebate on imported fuel oil and coal. According to Action Biosphère, a very modest tax on each tonne of imported coal and fuel oil would create a substantial reserve; this could be used to support investment in the development of renewable energies (solar power, wind power), which would enable household demand for electricity to be met.

5The network of ecological organisations and citizens Ensemble pour la planète (EPLP) (United for the Planet) points to the extremely high energy dependence of New Caledonia in terms of fossil fuels, which is inextricably linked to the choice of economic development focussed solely on the nickel mining and metals industry. EPLP highlights the absence of any political consistency in terms of these energy related issues and warns of a major impending energy crisis, caused by the scarcity and increased price of fossil fuels.

6Ensemble pour la planète proposes a gradual withdrawal (over the next 30-40 years) from this nickel-based economy, with the development of an alternative economy (local processing industry, local tourism, agriculture, forestry, waste recycling, etc.) and energy generation. It proposes equipping New Caledonia with a real plan for managing energy consumption and developing renewable energies, similar to that implemented on the island of Reunion, adopting incentives (kWh buy-back rate, subsidies, loans at reduced rates) to enable everyone to generate their own electricity and for industry to offset its CO2 emissions. Given that the development of renewable energies must be a primary objective, the association also proposes adopting measures enabling photovoltaic cells to be installed, developed and connected to the network, setting an incentive buy-back price for solar kWhs and introducing measures to support investment (70 % of the cost of photovoltaic systems) as well as raising consumer awareness of energy management.

7The attitude of the consumer association UFC Que Choisir is similar to that of ecological associations, but is less radical and less focussed on criticising mining development and the metal industry. As regards energy, it differs in the importance placed on demand side management, both in terms of household equipment, modes of consumption and housing.

8UFC Que Choisir would like public authorities to pay more attention to demand side management, as there are potentially major opportunities for saving energy, including the application of beneficial rates for night-time electricity (off-peak hours) and the creation of standards for labelling household equipment on the basis of their electrical efficiency, for example.

9According to the association, the development of renewable energies is facing stiff local resistance, both from Enercal and the government of New Caledonia, which financially support the operating company. In terms of housing, there are few incentives to encourage energy saving or compliance with HQE standards, although “traditional” housing, both kanak and caldoche, was previously well adapted to the climate.

10UFC Que Choisir also criticises the ambivalent attitude of New Caledonians who dislike their country’s energy choices and do not want to be one of the largest CO2 producers on the planet, but who continue to buy polluting vehicles, such as 4x4s, and over-use electricity (swimming pools, air-conditioning, etc.). Nevertheless, the association has detected a number of changes in terms of environmental awareness thanks to the release of Al Gore’s film on the greenhouse effect, which has had a major impact in New Caledonia, and the internet, which is providing New Caledonians with a window on the world. Local media has played an important part in this change for the past ten or years or so.

The media is playing a part in increasing environmental awareness

11In order understand the attitude of the New Caledonian media to energy related issues and energy management, we conducted a press review of the Nouvelles Calédoniennes web site between 2002 and 2009, based on the keywords “energy consumption” and “energy management”.

12Ninety articles talked, in one way or another, about energy related matters, whether they related to New Caledonia and neighbouring countries including Vanuatu, Samoa, Australia and New Zealand, or Europe and the United States. The issue of renewable energies tops the ranking of subjects covered, in particular the installation of wind farms and the revival of the copra industry in Ouvea (biomass), with a slight drop in interest between 2004 and 2006, followed by the classic topic of electricity generation and transporting it around the country, which is covered in a purely factual manner. On the other hand, based on a search using the keywords “energy and mining”, the articles encountered were more critical of air pollution caused by the coal fired power station at Prony and the plant at Doniambo. These topics were followed closely, in third position, by articles on energy related and environmental matters outside New Caledonia; although 2002 was characterised by the Earth Summit, 2008 demonstrated a renewed interest in what the South Pacific countries were doing in terms of renewable energies.

13In 2007, the release of Al Gore’s film triggered a marked interest in global warming and the greenhouse effect, and gave rise to numerous events and discussions. Nevertheless, the issue of demand side management only occupies a marginal place in Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, with a sudden interest, in 2007, associated with the installation by EEC (the New Caledonian Electricity and Water Company) of new electricity meters (known as convenience meters) in private establishments, enabling energy to be saved (there is a reference to the construction of a school meeting HQE standards in Ducos).

The attitudes and practices of New Caledonians are ambivalent

14Here too, in the absence of surveys, we are limited to putting forward a few theories, which necessarily need to be subsequently confirmed.

15We first of all noted a level of criticism as regards atmospheric pollution from the plant at Doniambo and the fact that being one of the largest CO2 producers on the planet appears to pose a problem for New Caledonians. This is demonstrated by a growing awareness of issues relating to pollution, global warming and the greenhouse effect; an interest borne out by the success of the film An Inconvenient Truth, which was widely watched in New Caledonia in December 2006. Furthermore, the awareness campaigns implemented specifically by the ADEME appear to be more effective when they make use of the film industry. Another observation: the population apparently has no problem with wind turbines and attitudes to renewable energies are generally extremely favourable.

16We have also noted levels of criticism as regards the inadequacy, or even the complete lack, of environmental practices and policies on the part of mining companies and the government. Fierce opposition by the Kanaks to the planned Goro Nickel plant clearly demonstrates this. However, at the same time, New Caledonians stop short of critically examining their own energy-hungry consumption habits (buying polluting 4x4s, over-equipping, housing, etc.). We have often heard it said that energy savings in the public distribution of electricity, household consumption habits and modes of transport are entirely negligible, and therefore completely immaterial, when compared to the considerable energy expenditure of mining companies.

17It needs to be said, however, that although the mining industry is the target of a great deal of criticism, the planned northern plant is welcomed by the population, in particular the kanaks, because of economic development and the thousands of jobs it is expected to create, thereby helping to restore a balance between the north and the south.

The attitudes of public stakeholders, expressing new concerns

18An article in Les Nouvelles Calédoniennes, dated 11th September 2008, reports on a significant change in government energy policy. In effect, the planned development of the electricity network over the next seven years will focus on renewable energies, autonomy of supply and prices.

19“(…) There are four major objectives: guaranteeing a secure supply, reducing dependence on external sources, guaranteeing competitive prices and limiting environmental impacts. For all these reasons, renewable energies will be at the heart of reforms, in the form of a pro-active policy, i.e. investment and regulations that favour wind power, photovoltaic systems and water power.”

20However, the issue of demand side management still plays a marginal role in government concerns, despite the launch of the EcoCal operation in 2005; an energy management project for New Caledonian housing.

21As for the provinces, they are well-versed in environmental matters. In March 2009, the South Province introduced new environmental legislation, which stipulates that “the imperatives of protecting the environment and combating intensification of the greenhouse effect must be incorporated into the definition and implementation of provincial policies and actions, specifically in order to promote sustainable development.” It also states that, “within the framework of ICPEs subject to authorisation or declaration, instructions may be issued, in general or on a case-by-case basis, regarding energy management or greenhouse gas emissions (based on notions of the best available technology and rules governing emissions of pollutants).” From this same perspective, the South Province’s strategy for sustainable development, also dating from March 2009, includes an initial approach entitled “Combating climate change and reducing energy dependence.” It outlines actions for the development of renewable energies, reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as gauging and anticipating local repercussions in terms of climate change (for example, putting in place a local frame of reference for sustainable town-planning, introducing the development of renewable energies for social housing (100 % of new homes equipped with solar power, promoting operations using photovoltaic solar systems) and examining the options for a provincial carbon tax, etc). And finally, the rules for investment subsidies in the South Province also include measures relating to demand side management.

22The attitude of the North Province, which is less urban and industrialised than the South Province, is clearly based on a concept of sustainable development focusing on natural resources, biodiversity and ecotourism. The attitude of the Islands Province focuses on the development of renewable energies (wind power in particular) and copra, with the oil mill in Ouvéa – which is nevertheless experiencing recurring operating difficulties because of supply problems in connection with land issues (cf. “What framework for an energy and climate policy promoting the development of New Caledonia”). It should be noted that the Loyalty Islands are currently drafting their own energy plan.

23The South Province is home to two thirds of the population of New Caledonia in an increasingly dense urban area which links the towns of Nouméa, Dumbéa, Mont-Dore and Païta. Despite the emergence of intermunicipality in New Caledonia (the inter-municipal association of Greater Nouméa was established 2006), there is not yet an inter-municipal policy relating to energy. As regards the extremely rapid development of Greater Nouméa, the public authorities are mainly attempting to manage the emergency by meeting the primary need for housing (to combat over-population and the development of squats) and transport, in particular.

24Finally, the role of the ADEME, which has had a presence in New Caledonia since 1981 and which reports directly to the French government, is essentially to provide advice on and assistance with the implementation of public policies relating to the environment, energy and sustainable development. It is specifically involved in the Territorial Energy Management Committee, which manages the contribution fund for energy management, financed equally by the ADEME and the government of New Caledonia.

The reluctant attitude of electricity companies

25The two electricity companies, EEC and Enercal, are not very keen on managing the demand for energy and mainly display an interest in reducing or managing peaks. EEC acknowledges the existence of “wasteful” behaviour, but believes that changing this behaviour is not its responsibility.

26In 2007, EEC commissioned a study into biomass, which confirms that there is potential for energy-related plantations, but highlights the lack of political will for establishing this kind of system. In an article published on 1st July 2007 in the online magazine Made’In, its Managing Director, Yves Morault, insisted on the need to develop and use renewable energies and to commit to going down the route of demand side management, an area in which, he says, “there are vast quantities of energy to be saved.”


27The question of current energy-related practices reflects, first of all, the consumption habits of households, a subject on which we are cruelly lacking data, the ISEE survey not being due for publication until after our report. This quantitative investigation would also benefit from being followed by a qualitative investigation into the diversity and disparity of the population’s energy consumption habits.

28It also reflects the consumption habits of both public and private stakeholders, areas in which information is also lacking. What is more readily available, on the other hand, is the content of public policies and quantitative data relating to electricity generation and consumption, which forms the subject of the chapter entitled “The energy situation”.

29According to the little data available (which, we have been told needs updating), the level of consumption by households in New Caledonia, at today’s prices, rose by 34 % between 1990 and 1997, i.e. an average annual rate of 4 %, while over the same period, the average annual inflation rate was close to 2 %. During the course of this period, the structure of consumption changed with services rising by 4 percent and miscellaneous industrial products falling. At the same time, the energy budget increased from 2.5 % to almost 4 % of household expenditure.

30According to the Tableaux de l’économie calédonienne (TEC) (New Caledonian Economic Tables) published by the ISEE, economic growth has resulted in an improvement in the population’s average standard of living, as confirmed by several indicators including changes in the level of household equipment and durable goods. Services are the main expenditure item and, for almost half of the population, have a decisive influence on household consumption. These are divided as follows: 20 % for food, 20 % for miscellaneous industrial products and 7 % for energy products. The proportion of energy in household budgets has therefore risen from 2.5 % in 1990 to 7 % in 2006.

31Over the past few decades, New Caledonian households have rapidly filled with domestic electrical appliances and goods linked to consumption. By 2004, almost every household owned a fridge, a washing machine, a freezer, and more than a third of households owned a computer – but with enormous disparities, depending on the particular Province. The level of domestic air-conditioning has also increased, with more than a quarter of households being equipped.

32In 2004, 74 % of households in New Caledonia owned at least one car, compared to 62 % in 1989, and 6 % owned a powered scooter or motorbike (it should be noted, however, that a quarter of households had no individual means of transport at their disposal). Finally, 13 % of households own a motor boat (22 % in the North Province where fishing is a major activity).

33In 2000, electricity consumption per capita was 2.523 MWh/year in the South Province, compared to 0.745 and 0.603 MWh/year respectively in the North and Islands Provinces. There are therefore significant differences in electricity consumption between those living in the South Province, which is urbanised and where Kanaks are in the minority, and those in the North and Island Provinces, which are rural and predominantly inhabited by Kanaks. In 2004, GDP per capita in the Loyalty Islands Province was less than half that in the North Province, and GDP in the latter was actually less than a third of that in the South Province.

34Demand side management issues are therefore more acute in the South Province than in the North Province and the Loyalty Islands, because of the higher level of household electrical goods and the density of urban development as well as problems with transport, housing and town planning. Nevertheless, it appears important for the North and Loyalty Islands Provinces to anticipate future changes.


Energy management in France

The state: regulations and fiscal support

35French demand side management policies actually emerged as a reaction to the oil crises of 1974 and 1979. Initially, state involvement was therefore justified on the basis of French dependence in relation to its energy supplies. Subsequently, credits awarded for managing consumption were designed to boost construction activity in the short term. Equally, demand side management actions were occasionally linked to social policies, for example, the use of special reserves for major social housing renovation projects.

36Beginning in the 1990s, environmental motives became more important – as demonstrated by law n° 96-1236 of 30th December 1996 governing air and the rational use of energy – and were subsequently reinforced on the basis of France’s international undertakings (the Kyoto protocol, for example).

37Most of the time, these days, direct state involvement in favour of demand side management is covered by the Climate Plan, which France is obliged to regularly submit to the European Commission. Its involvement covers two main areas: regulations and fiscal support.

38The principal regulations in the field of energy saving are:

  • thermal regulations (introduced in 1974) for all new buildings,
  • regulations governing boilers and combustion units, complemented by the Plan national d’allocation des quotas (PNAQ) (National Quota Allocation Plan) and the regular inspection of boilers and air-conditioning systems,
  • labelling household electrical equipment,
  • seasonal time changing (summer time/winter time) introduced in 1975.

39The principal fiscal support mechanisms are:

  • tax credits for individuals for investments in improving the energy efficiency of buildings,
  • reduced VAT (5.5 %) for work to improve old buildings,
  • a system of extraordinary amortisation for companies for equipment designed to save energy or to produce renewable energy,
  • financing investments in saving energy by means of lease-purchase.

40In addition, the state should set an example and must therefore take action within its own buildings and adapt its procedures for controlling equipment/systems. Finally, it also supports research in the field of energy management.

The ADEME: providing advice and raising awareness

41Promoting energy management is now one of the ADEME’s five key missions. In its last two major awareness campaigns, the agency confirmed the importance of environmental concerns as one of the reasons for promoting energy saving, both following and influencing opinion in this area. Whereas the slogan for the “chasse au gaspi” (Driving down waste) campaign at the end of the 1970s was: “In France, we don’t have any oil, but we have ideas.” In 2001, it became: “Save your money. Save your planet,” and, in 2004: “Save energy soon, things are heating up.”

42The ADEME took part in the Grenelle Environment Forum, becoming, among other things, a member of the working group entitled “Combating climate change and managing energy.” On the request of the Ministry of Sustainable Development (MEDDAAT), it specifically became a key operator in charge of the heat fund for developing the generation of heat from renewable energies, and the research demonstration fund for new energy technologies.

43The ADEME has developed a decision-making support tool (preliminary diagnostic, feasibility study, assistance in setting up projects) and provides solutions to facilitate the financing of projects to improve the energy efficiency of companies. It is also developing a system of partnerships to relay its efforts and encourage other stakeholders, both public and private, to take action. Finally, it issues requests for proposals in order to encourage the emergence of new and effective solutions, follow by their distribution and market launch.

44There is also a decision-making support tool for public authorities, but it is designed to deal with building related issues and assistance for clients. Its role in relation to individuals consists of raising awareness, relaying and/or distributing information, and offering local advice by means of Espaces info énergie (Energy information areas). In addition, the ADEME leads campaigns in schools to promote environmental education.

EDF: pricing, public service mission, services and R&D

45EDF’s primary motivation when it comes to demand side management has been to optimise the use of power stations by adjusting demand, thanks to a pricing structure based on marginal costs, introduced in 1954 with the creation of the “green” tariff. The application of pricing standardisation means that the company has an interest in managing consumption in areas where it is expensive to transport or generate electricity.

46In other respects, a situation of overcapacity, brought about by the extensive nuclear power programme, has paradoxically encouraged an improvement in home insulation and the efficiency of electric heating systems. Demand side management activities have therefore been driven by a commercial motive: gaining market share for the competitive use of energy. It should also be noted that demand side management activities have provided a means for EDF to promote its image - specifically to counter antinuclear arguments.

47In 1993, EDF began signing three-year framework agreements with the ADEME, relating specifically to managing demand for electricity. Actions undertaken within this framework are driven by both economic and environmental motives.

48Deregulation of the electricity market has subsequently changed the situation, since EDF no longer has a monopoly and its new constitution has done away with the principle of specialisation, which means that it is able to diversify its business. Its demand side management activities are now driven by two motives: redefining its public service mission and the need to differentiate itself from its competitors by developing its service activities.

49EDF’s activities are principally based on the decisive aspect of the pricing signals sent to customers. Incremental pricing stems from the fact that electricity is a product that cannot be stored and that production resources are used in such a way as to meet instant demand. However, this demand is uneven, depending, in particular, on the time of day and the season. These fluctuations are characterised by the electricity system’s load curve, which plots the total amount of power demanded by time. Traditionally, demand is therefore broken down into three types: basic (average power required for more than 6,000 hours/year), semi-basic (intermediate demand periods) and peak (power required at critical times). Production capacities are therefore chosen to suit the structure of this load with different costs for each category, lower for basic demand and higher at peak times.

50Pricing standardisation and the aim of providing access to energy for all is forcing EDF to implement local demand side management programmes, in the form of information and promotion campaigns for energy efficient equipment (low-energy light bulbs, for example). The company is also developing a commercial culture of demand side management by offering its clients a range of services. For companies, there are annual customised energy audits and advice on lighting and air-conditioning; for public authorities, Citélia products with Optimia diagnostics; and for individuals, advice and internet or telephone simulations, Gesteco campaigns in certain pilot regions with an energy management pack and Vivrélec for electric heating.

51Finally, EDF has a sizeable R&D Centre, one of the major aims of which is to develop new efficient technologies for industrial processes and household equipment.

Private stakeholders: companies and specialist consultancy firms

52For these private stakeholders, the principal motivation is, naturally, an economic one. They are, to a lesser extent, influenced by environmental and/or image-related issues. Their aim is to increase their business by offering their clients products and services.

53Certain associations may also play a part in demand side management activities; these are often linked to “Energy Information Areas” or local energy agencies. Their motives depend on their own objectives, but are generally of an environmental, social and/or civic nature.

54And finally, in mainland France, local authorities are major players in terms of demand side management.

Prospects and current challenges

55In terms of public policies, we had to wait for France’s ratification of the Kyoto protocol in 2000, to witness the launch of two new programmes heralding the revival of energy management policies: the Plan national de lutte contre le changement climatique (the PNLCC (national plan to combat climate change), which has now been replaced by the Climate Plan) complemented by the Plan national d’amélioration de l’efficacité énergétique (le PNAEE (national plan to improve energy efficiency ).

56This revival is currently experiencing a second wind, as the issues of energy prices and security of supply have returned to the fore as a result of volatile oil prices and the prospect of depleted oil resources. Against this background, France is primarily following the routes determined by various European directives. The principal measures taken include reinforcing tax credits for investment in energy management and the launch by the ADEME of a new awareness campaign (“Save energy soon, things are heating up”), which is more ambitious and, above all, more practical. In terms of demand side management, the Grenelle Environment Forum represents a major step forward.

57Everything appears to point to the fact that, in France, demand side management activities will experience a boom over the coming years, but that the challenges will differ from those during the period following the oil crises of 1973 and 1979:

  • establishing long term actions and, in order to do so, dealing with the issues of consumption management throughout the entire decision-making process,
  • sustaining demand side management activities in a new market environment that is open to competition, which calls into question the division of roles and possible ways of operating,
  • structuring activity policies on the basis of different territorial levels,
  • developing new strategies (including energy saving certificates) in order to exploit the various opportunities, which have become the major challenge for managing energy consumption, and tackling sectors in which it is more difficult to make headway (old housing, small and medium sized companies and industries, etc.).

Energy management in overseas departments: isolated but large-scale activities

58Like rural areas, islands have been areas that lend themselves to demand side management activities because of pricing standardisation. These types of activities in such locations have increased at an ever greater rate as the deficit for EDF has grown, in particular in overseas departments. Demand side management activities, in these areas, have therefore been one of the major focuses for EDF-ADEME agreements, as they have represented an area in which the interests of both parties converged.

59A few local large-scale activities have been successfully conducted, including the distribution of almost a million low-energy light bulbs: 150,000 on the island of Reunion in 1989, 350,000 in Guadeloupe and 346,000 in Martinique in 1992, 73,000 in French Guyana; results that are approximately 10 times higher than local operations of this type carried out in mainland France. Other examples: the promotion of solar water-heaters and the Ecodom label, which are designed to improve the energy efficiency of new buildings.

60Over the past twenty years, economic development on the island of Réunion has been accompanied by sustained growth in energy consumption, for which demand has increased by a factor of 2.5, with that for electricity having even quadrupled. It was therefore a matter of urgency to implement an extremely ambitious regional policy of energy management and the use of renewable energies to generate electricity: this is what is offered by the Plan régional des énergies renouvelables et d’utilisation rationnelle de l’énergie (Prerure) (regional plan for renewable energies and the rational use of energy), which makes provision, in the medium term, for the creation of three renewable energy or megawatt power stations, demand side management or megawatts and storage. A second programme of “operational actions leading to visible results over the next ten years” is designed to reduce the demand for electricity as far as possible, by means of twelve intensive operations, principally in the field of energy management.

61Thermal regulations for overseas departments (RT DOM), which are limited to the housing sector, may represent a starting point for drafting New Caledonian thermal regulations. They actually equate to a toned down EcoCal, with additions for ventilation-related issues. Furthermore, as regards the tertiary sector, it would make sense to draw inspiration from the PERENE programme, which, as it is based on a detailed study of the climate on the island of Reunion, provides interesting information in terms of consumption ratios and frames of reference for the various tertiary sectors. Given the great similarities between the climate in New Caledonia and that on the island of Reunion, certain results can be transposed, but this does not remove the need to produce statistical or documented studies of actual consumption by sector and to establish a climatic map with reference data for each region. To simplify matters, the application of thermal regulations for overseas departments (RT DOM), as well as housing and tertiary programmes, should be standardised in terms of targets to be met and developed simultaneously.


62First of all, there is a need for action on a political level, as this is the area that has the greatest leverage in terms of demand side management. How can we raise elected representatives’ awareness of this challenge? By means of awareness and education campaigns, by presenting them with examples from other places, by explaining the aims and possibilities, etc. The ADEME is perhaps best placed to take on this task, but in New Caledonia it only has limited resources at its disposal.

63At the same time, there is also a need for action in terms of all the country’s stakeholders. Firstly, it would make sense to recommend an anthropological, and therefore qualitative, survey, relating to the attitudes and practices of New Caledonians in terms of energy. As a vital addition to the ISEE’s statistical surveys, this qualitative approach would provide an understanding of the points of view of the country’s inhabitants, their consumption choices and the underlying reasons for them, their expectations, their judgements, etc. We would also recommend a survey of the attitudes of various New Caledonian media channels to energy-related issues (press review, television news, radio broadcasts, etc.).

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