Government report lacks a 'vision for wind'

FRANCE: A government-commissioned report on the development of the wind sector has proposed introducing annual competitive tenders to replace premium purchase pricing tariff.

The report was commissioned by the ministers of energy and industrial regeneration to formulate proposals for the future development of the wind sector, in the run-up to a national debate on the energy transition.

Although the report contains some positive proposals, such as simplifying the permitting process and giving local communities more say in decision-making, none is spelt out in detail or defined as urgent. Overall, the report contains "no vision for wind", lamented Nicolas Wolff, president of the French Wind Energy Association (FEE).

It recommends the phasing out over five years of the guaranteed premium purchase price and replacing it with annual competitive tenders. This, the report argues, would give the industry the necessary visibility and allow support to be channeled to those technologies offering the best opportunities for local job creation.

Worrying proposals

However, tenders have a very poor record in France, Wolff pointed out, while the tariff is a cornerstone, which offers the sector some stability.

Equally worrying is the recommendation that the regional wind power plans, which identify areas deemed favourable to wind power, be tightened up to show more precisely the areas where deployment is constrained. The report notes this would probably lead to a sizeable reduction in the favourable areas, "largely because of the cost of access and of connection to the network".

The cost of wind comes up a lot in the report, including the argument that the French consumer is largely subsidising imports of foreign equipment. This is wrong, said Wolff. The industry accounts for around EUR950 million in exports and just over EUR1 billion in imports and the balance will soon tip over into positive figures, he added. It now remains to be seen which recommendations, if any, the government pursues in the forthcoming debate.

According to trade body the Renewable Energy Syndicate, there may be room for optimism.Energy and environment minister Delphine Batho is said to have described the report as "a very imperfect report that merits further work".

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