Analysis - France boosts wind with law simplification

FRANCE: The French wind industry has breathed a sigh of relief with the passage of a law on simplifying the rules governing the installation of turbines on the mainland and in overseas territories.

The La Butte du Fraus wind farm... French onshore projects in the zones have been restricted to five turbines
The La Butte du Fraus wind farm... French onshore projects in the zones have been restricted to five turbines

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According to French Wind Energy Association FEE, this is the first time in ten years that the regulations have been simplified.

The measures include scrapping the wind power development zones (ZDEs). Until now, turbines had to be located n these areas to qualify for guaranteed power-purchase prices, but they were also vulnerable to legal challenges.

ZDEs have been made redundant by the introduction of regional wind-power plans that are currently being finalised. These plans will now form the top-level planning instrument, identifying areas where plants can be built.

The law also removes the five-turbine minimum threshold, which blocked a large number of projects in rural areas, particularly in western France. According to industry figures, the introduction of the threshold in 2010 led to more than 50% of projects under development in the regions of Pays-de-la-Loire, Brittany and Basse-Normandie to be put on hold.

The law also introduces two special exemptions from coastal planning laws: one allows turbines to be installed in coastal areas in the overseas territories, while another allows export cables from offshore installations to pass through protected zones.

This was the second attempt to pass the law. Last October, the upper house rejected it for reasons not related to wind power.

Various problems still remain, however. Most importantly, there is still uncertainty regarding the guaranteed premium purchase price for onshore wind following a legal challenge last year. The industry has also warned that an increase in grid connection charges proposed by the transmission system operator could put projects in jeopardy.

The rate of deployment in France has been falling over the past three years as a result of an increasingly complex permitting system. Trade association Renewable Energy Syndicate estimates that the number of employees working in the sector has fallen from nearly 11,000 in 2010 to just under 8,000 today.

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