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France

France

Urgent action needed on regulatory reform

FRANCE: As France faces a marked slowdown in new wind-power installations this year, pressure is being put on the new socialist government to fulfil its campaign promise to reform the increasingly burdensome regulatory framework.

According to Nicolas Wolff, president of the French Wind Energy Association (FEE), less than 700MW will be built this year unless urgent action is taken. This is far below the 1.5GW needed to meet France's binding onshore target of 19GW by 2020.

In early July, senator Roland Courteau, member of France's Supreme Council for Energy, put forward a draft bill designed to "streamline procedures, prevent litigation and facilitate the development of smaller facilities" better suited to rural France.

Preventing conflict

First, he proposes that wind power development zones (ZDEs) - within which turbines must be built to qualify for guaranteed power purchase prices - be defined by the new regional wind-power plans. This will prevent duplication of procedures and potential conflict between the different authorities, Courteau said.

Second, he wants the minimum threshold for a wind farm to be cut from five to three turbines. The threshold, introduced in 2010, hit over 25% of projects nationwide, according to trade association the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER).

While there is little chance that the bill will become law, it will at least raise the issue in parliament. It may help, said Wolff, but he believes the problems facing the industry cannot be solved so easily. There is no quick and easy fix, he warned.

Instead, FEE is calling on the government to implement a series of emergency measures to resuscitate the market. The top priority is restoring the onshore tariff to reassure investors. In May the government referred the tariff, which was attacked by an anti-wind group, to the European Court of Justice. While the existing tariff remains in force pending the court's decision, investors are still reluctant to sign up, Wolf said. "Banks have no visibility about the new tariff," he said.

Other measures put forward by FEE include removing the five-turbine minimum; abolishing ZDE regulations; revising domestic environmental protection regulations; and rapidly launching the second offshore tender.

In the meantime, FEE hopes to increase its visibility as the main body representing the wind industry in France by splitting from SER. While their overall goals are the same, FEE believes it will be better able to defend the industry as an independent body. The association claims to represent over 250 players in the sector and 11,000 jobs.

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