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France confirms offshore second round tender

FRANCE: France's energy regulator CRE has revealed details of the country's second offshore tender, with two zones of 480-500MW confirmed.

Details of the second tender for up to 1GW of offshore wind capacity in French waters have become clearer, with publication yesterday of tender terms by energy regulator CRE. While there are no big surprises, the deadline for bids has been pushed back slightly to 29 November, and project commissioning timetables have been revised.

One of the zones is at Le Tréport, in the Channel, and the other near the islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier in the Atlantic. However, in 2011 these were down as 750MW and 600MW respectively.

Once applications are in, CRE will have four months to evaluate bids. France's energy minister is expected to announce the winners next spring, with projects due for completion by 2023.

The allocation of points during bid assessment will be the same as for the first tender: up to 40 for price; 40 for the industrial component, including plans to establish local supply lines and jobs; and 20 for environmental issues and conflict resolution.

On price, the French government has introduced measures to encourage lower bids, noting that first round bids were either above or only slightly below the specified ceiling price. Specifications now stipulate that any bids over €220/MWh — or those over the average for the zone plus 20%, whichever is lower — will be eliminated. Bids will also be scored in inverse proportion to price. "This will increase competitive pressure," argues the ministry.

The timetable for commissioning plant has also been revised. Winning developers will have to commission 40% of capacity within 87 months (7.25 years) of the project award. A further 50% must come online within 99 months (8.25 years) and full operation must be achieved within 111 months (9.25 years). This compares to first round projects that must meet the following targets: 20% capacity within six years; a further 30% within seven, and full operation within eight.

Account has also been taken of potential delays in permitting and grid connection. Projects' 20-year power purchase agreements (PPAs) start from when each phase comes into operation, but this can be delayed if commissioning is held up due to delays with grid connection within six years and nine months of the project award.

The start of PPAs can also be put off if permitting or grid connection is challenged legally or if the right to occupy the maritime domain or environmental approval are delivered more than six months after applications are submitted.

While France's offshore wind industry has welcomed the launch of the tender, it is dismayed that the country is so far behind its target of 6GW of installed offshore capacity by 2020. If everything goes to plan, this second tender means France will only reach the installed capacity already achieved by the UK – 3GW - by 2023.

In January, French prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said the government was "thinking of" a further round, but nothing has been confirmed.

In the meantime, developers will be examining these tender terms. Companies that have previously indicated an intention to participate include EDF Energies Nouvelles, Alstom, Iberdrola, Eole-RES, WPD Offshore, Nass&Wind Offshore, GDF Suez, Neoen and EDP Renewables.

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