Philippe Martin is an important man. As France’s new environment minister, he occupies a key post in a government that will be pivotal in determining the EU’s post-2020 climate and energy policy.
While no official position will be presented before the elections, there are little doubts that Germany will come out in favour a binding 2030 renewable energy target – which is critical for investor confidence in the wind energy sector – but the UK is officially against. France currently supports such a target but only at a later stage, after a greenhouse gas reduction target is in place.
The French government needs to realise the importance of setting three targets – for renewables, greenhouse gas reduction and energy efficiency – simultaneously, so that they can work together and mutually reinforce each other. Additionally, an ambitious three target package would highlight the EU’s leadership at the 2015 UN climate change meeting in Paris.
Copyright Charles Delplanque
After a gloomy couple of years for the wind industry in France, a few glimmers of light have been spotted in recent weeks led by the adoption by the National Assembly of a bill proposed by the Socialist government to simplify measures that have been stymieing the development of the sector.
To boost the production of wind energy in France, help develop other renewable sources of energy and generally encourage the shift towards clean and efficient energy, the government is proposing to weight consumer energy bills according to household consumption from 2016. It has also put forward a raft of measures aimed at making it easier to set up wind farms.
The government proposal suggests a reward/penalty system for calculating consumer energy bills that will take into consideration the amount of energy used, the number of occupants in a household, geographical location, the type of heating system used and local climate conditions.
The law also includes plans to facilitate the construction of small wind farms with fewer than five turbines. Under existing laws, onshore farms must have a minimum of five turbines. This decision is critical if France is to meet its target of 25,000 megawatt installed capacity by 2020, says French renewable energy group SER. France’s total capacity currently stands at about 7,560 MW.
Attentive crowd at EWEA 2013
France’s wind energy targets might be in jeopardy due to legal wrangling over the country’s support scheme for wind energy, the French Wind Energy Association, FEE, warned yesterday.
“France was a promising market, but regulatory problems have led to a decline in new wind energy installations,” Nicolas Wolff, FEE President, told journalists attending EWEA’s 2013 Annual Event in Vienna.
Wind power installations in 2012 were down 35% compared to 2011 installations, “far below what they should be,” Wolff said, adding that in 2012 only 750 megawatts were built when the sector needs to be adding 1,200/1,300 MW per year to meet the country’s targets of 25 GW by 2020.
Nine in ten people in France are in favour of renewable energy, a survey published on Thursday in Le Monde’s annual special publication Le Bilan du monde found, largely because of their clean and non-polluting image. Moreover, 63% of those surveyed said they think that more renewables will be used than traditional fuels in 50 years’ time.
However, only half of those surveyed consider renewable energies to be a cheap energy option and some 68% said the biggest obstacle to the development of renewables is their cost. 26% said wind farm aesthetics was the biggest hurdle, but 68% said they would accept the installation of wind turbines in their district with 45% of the 68% saying they would also accept turbines in their line of vision.
French ecology minister Delphine Batho
After months of uncertainty, French Ecology Minister Delphine Batho finally announced last week the second phase of a call for tenders for the construction of €3.5 billion worth of offshore wind farms to generate 1,000 megawatts of electricity.
The announcement followed up on a promise made by French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault during a government-hosted conference on the environment in September at which he and President François Hollande promised a plan to kick-start the renewables industry in France.
According to Batho, the projects will create 10,000 industrial jobs. The wind farms are planned for construction near Treport, in northern France, and near the Noirmoutier and Île d’Yeu islands on the Atlantic coast.