France moves to secure onshore tariff

FRANCE: The French wind industry is cautiously optimistic that the legal threat to the onshore tariff will soon be resolved, following the announcement last week by Laurent Michel, director general of energy and climate, that the paperwork notifying the European Commission of a new tariff had "left the ministry".

Paperwork to safeguard France's onshore tariff has left energy ministry, in centre of picture (pic:Olivier Passalacqua)
Paperwork to safeguard France's onshore tariff has left energy ministry, in centre of picture (pic:Olivier Passalacqua)

Uncertainty over the legality of the tariff has been making it difficult for projects to secure financing and has contributed to a severe slowdown in new deployment. More than 400MW will be lost this year because siting permits have expired, the industry has warned, partly because of doubts regarding the tariff.

The problem dates back to spring 2012, when anti-wind lobby Vent de Colère attacked the tariff on the grounds that it constitutes state aid and should therefore have been notified to the European Commission (EC). France referred the case to the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which is likely to uphold the appeal. The EC is expected to issue its verdict in November, almost certainly following the advice of the ECJ. This means that, if no new tariff is in place, the market would face "a complete blockage" early next year, warned Anne Lapierre, a partner at legal firm Norton Rose Fulbright.

It is now a race against time. Once the notification has reached the EC, it usually takes up to 18 months to process. The industry is hoping, however, that the government has secured the right to use a simplified procedure, taking a maximum of four months. France would then be able to issue a new decree re-establishing the tariff before the old one is annulled. All the government will say is that is has had long and detailed discussions with the EC about the new notification and is hoping for a rapid response, according to Michel. He also noted that the new tariff will be identical to its predecessor, so there will be no issues over continuity.

Vent de Colère also successfully attacked the tariff in 2007 on another point of procedure. The government again resolved the matter by issuing a new decree.

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