French wind industry in disarray following ECJ conclusion

FRANCE: The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has concluded that the French tariff system for wind power falls within the concept of state aid.

The European Court of Justice... usually follows Advocate General's ruling

The ruling means the government should have notified the European Commission (EC) when it issued the decree defining the tariff in 2008. There is now a risk that the decree will be annulled, leaving the industry in regulatory limbo.

The ECJ, which usually follows the Advocate General's findings, will reach its decision in September. The French Council of State will then decide if it agrees with the ECJ findings and if the decree must be annulled. The council's decision is not expected until the end of the year.

In the meantime, the industry is calling on the government to start procedures immediately notifying the EC of the tariff mechanism. Nicolas Wolff, president of the French Wind Energy Association, said this was needed "to avoid the sector coming to a complete standstill."

The finding is a victory for the anti-wind lobby, which challenged the decree in 2012. The uncertainty made it difficult for developers to secure financing and sign power purchase agreements, leading to a sharp fall in deployment.

The ruling stems from an appeal to the council by Vent de Colère, an association opposed to industrial-scale wind power, on the grounds that the government had failed to notify the European Commission of the tariff as required for state aid under European law. In March the council's rapporteur had called for the decree establishing the tariff to be annulled.