Europe 2020: Renewable Energy Plans - Legislative malaise threatens prospects

FRANCE: The renewable energy directive was adopted under the French presidency of the European Union, and France has signed up to an ambitious target for renewables to meet at least 23% of energy needs by 2020.

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To get there, it expects installed wind capacity to reach 19GW onshore and 6GW offshore, up from around 5GW today, all onshore. Nevertheless, while the energy ministry insists that France filed its National Renewable Energy Action Plan before the deadline, by mid-July the document had still not appeared on the European Commission's website.

The battle for renewables has never been easy in France and the country is facing an internal struggle that could make achievement of that target difficult. In June, the government introduced Grenelle 2, a law that could severely hamper the deployment of wind power (see page 62). Perhaps with this in mind, the government says it intends to reach its 23% target by domestic action alone but has not ruled out importing electricity from projects established across the Mediterranean.

While details of France's action plan have not yet been made public, energy minister Jean-Louis Borloo has indicated that it would be based on the decisions made following the Grenelle de l'Environment, a national summit in 2007 to formulate government environmental policy (Windpower Monthly, December 2007).

Among other things, the summit called for simplifications to the regulatory framework and for better planning. With this in mind, each region of France must draw up a renewable energy plan identifying where turbines can be built. At the same time, the network operator must produce a plan outlining how wind and other renewables will be connected to the network.

Which is all very well, except that Grenelle 2 requires that wind plants consist of at least five turbines. This could affect a quarter of projects under development. Turbines will also be subject to onerous regulations covering industries deemed to have environmental impact. On the other hand, the law now states that France must install at least 500 turbines a year - sufficient to meet the 19GW onshore target. As for offshore wind, the government will launch a series of competitive tenders totalling 6GW between now and 2013, for completion by 2020. But the industry is sceptical that the timetable is realistic.

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