French wind power development zones scrapped

FRANCE: The French government has moved to simplify the country's increasingly onerous permitting process by scrapping the wind power development zones (ZDEs).

ZDEs were established in 2007 as areas within which turbines must be built to benefit from the guaranteed premium power purchase price.

The wind industry has been arguing for the suppression of ZDEs on the grounds that they have been made redundant by the introduction of regional wind-power plans, which identify areas where plant can be built.

ZDEs must then be located within these "favourable" areas, creating unnecessary layers of procedure.

Because the protocols governing ZDEs are not very robust in law, they are often challenged in the courts, said Nicolas Wolff, president of the French Wind Energy Association (FEE). The regional plans are less open to attack, he added.

However, there are still many unanswered questions, such as how soon the government will act and if they will make any changes to the regional wind power plans at the same time. Some also defend the ZDE because it gives local communities a greater role in decision-making.

The number of new wind power plants connected to the grid fell by 58% in France in the first six months of 2012 compared to the same period in 2011, according to figures released by the French government last week. The fall was blamed on excessive bureaucracy within the permitting system.

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