French regional plans slammed as 'insufficient'

FRANCE: Two thirds of France's new regional wind power plans, or SREs, are insufficient or leave "room for improvement", French Wind Energy Association FEE has warned.

Could do better: Some regional plans were considered disappointing
Could do better: Some regional plans were considered disappointing

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Fee has also raised concerns that the associated grid connection plans look set to hike prices and put projects in jeopardy,

The SREs, France's top-level wind planning tool, had to be in place by last September as an annex to each region's broader climate, air and energy plan, or SRCAE.

Drawn up by regional authorities, the SREs set a capacity target for the region and identify areas where turbines can be installed. So far, 18 of France's 21 mainland regions have submitted their SREs, in total targeting nearly 30GW of installed onshore capacity by 2020, compared with the official EU objective of 19GW.

These targets are meant to be set after consultation with all relevant parties and take into account the wind resource and constraints such as the presence of radars, historic monuments and protected areas.

However, FEE says that six of the plans show no or very little consultation, do not reflect the region's potential and consist of zones that are too small or widely scattered, while eight "could do better". The Centre region gives a target of 2.6GW - against 672MW operating today - but fails to identify sufficient suitable land, while FEE thinks the Auvergne should aim much higher than 800MW, given its wind resource.

FEE judges just seven of the plans "positive", with high targets and well-sized favourable areas, including Brittany (targeting 1.8-2.5GW), Pays-de-la-Loire (1.77GW) and Picardy (2.8GW).

Transmission costs

Six months after the SRCAEs are adopted, grid operator RTE has to publish its regional plans identifying the work needed to accommodate the anticipated new wind capacity and its estimated cost.

Although the methodology has not been agreed yet, seven plans have either been adopted or are under discussion. These indicate that RTE will apportion all the additional cost among projects on a pro-rata basis. "With this system, producers of renewable energy must now support all the new works that will be created under the grid connection plans in a region, including those funded so far by the grid operator," says Serge Galaup, president of FEE's grid connection committee.

This could threaten the viability of some projects, warns FEE, which lodged an appeal against the grid connection plans in October. Energy regulator CRE has also expressed concerns about additional costs.

While RTE says no extra work will be needed in Alsace, in the Midi-Pyrenees it estimates developers will have to pay an additional EUR81,000/MW.

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