Backpage: The last word in wind -- December

WORLDWIDE: French anti-wind lobby accuses local officials of abusing power, UK falling short on renewables target and turbine fire insights.

French councillors face legal threat

Elected local officials in France are being targeted by the anti-wind lobby, accusing them of abuses of power in handling wind projects. So far, 14 councillors have been given suspended prison sentences and fines of up to €15,000.

The main purpose of the legal actions is to frighten councils from considering wind projects in the first place. Developers often ask for approval from the council before carrying out feasibility studies. Many councillors in rural areas are landowners, opening up a potential conflict of interest.

Councils are only required to give approval (or not) during the permitting process when the precise turbine locations will be known. Anyone directly involved must then withdraw from the debate. But by then, it is often too late. In 2014, six councillors in Laramiere (pictured) were found guilty of taking part in discussions where they potentially stood to gain, even though the project was only at the pre-feasibility stage, and was ultimately rejected.

More recently, a councillor at Cossee-le Vivien was found not guilty because at the time of the council meeting in question, only the broad outline of the area involved was known. The industry hopes other judges will now take a similar approach.

Said last month

"We need to address the causes and consequences of turbine fire and recognise that it affects each company in the industry rather than 'affecting' our competitors. We cannot allow a handful of torched assets to become a symbol of our inability to work together"

Jatin Sharma, head of business development for insurance underwriters GCube, and author of Towering Inferno, the company's new report into the causes and impact of wind turbine fires

Figures and facts

9: Average number of months downtime after a turbine fire.

$4.5 million: The average cost in downtime and unit replacement following a wind-turbine fire.

0.017: The percentage of turbines installed globally that suffer fires each year. It works at around 1:60,000

Figures from GCube report.

UK falling short on renewables target

We pointed out back in June that the slashing of support for onshore wind and solar left the UK in danger of failing to meet its legally binding 2020 renewable energy targets. Nonsense - or words to that effect - said the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc).

Now though, Decc has admitted there is a problem, and a bigger one than originally thought. It had been generally assumed that sourcing 30% of its electricity from renewables would allow the UK to hit its overall energy target of 15% from renewables. Now it transpires that it will only be sufficient for about 11.5%, leaving the UK well short of its binding commitment.

Last month, UK energy minister Amber Rudd outlined a number of ways the shortfall could be made up, principally by demanding that the UK's transport sector made greater efforts to use renewable fuels. Failing dramatic progress in that area, then the UK could always import renewable electricity, she suggested, from Norway's hydro. Except that the NSN Link interconnector that could make that feasible is not scheduled for completion until 2021.