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France

France

New law brings cheaper, faster offshore grid connections

FRANCE: The cost of grid connection for all new offshore-wind projects tendered under the competitive dialogue process will be carried out by grid operator RTE rather than the developer, according to a new French law.

Tied up… France has run several tender rounds but still has no installed offshore wind capacity (pic: NKT/Ralf Berndt)
Tied up… France has run several tender rounds but still has no installed offshore wind capacity (pic: NKT/Ralf Berndt)

It will include stranded costs in the event of the tender being abandoned.

"This will allow quicker implementation of marine renewable-energy projects and reduce their cost," the government said.

RTE will recover the costs from charges levied on large industrial consumers.

In case of abandonment, the costs will be split between RTE and the developer, depending on where responsibility lies. In such cases, the tender would normally be relaunched, thereby limiting RTE’s losses.

The grid operator will be able to spread compensate developers for any delay in delivering the connection by the date set in the tender terms. And it will compensate plant owners for any damage to the grid connection or malfunction attributable to RTE that results in a partial or total loss of earnings.

"The new law makes everyone aware of their responsibilities," said RTE, which had been pushing for the change.

The operator will be able to spread the cost of investment, benefit from scale effects and start planning the connection as soon as the zone is announced and the tender launched, rather than waiting for a winner to be announced.

"We can imagine that RTE will plan several electrical substations and grid infrastructures over a long-term period," said Matthieu Monnier, head of offshore wind at French wind energy association FEE.

From the developers’ point of view, the new provisions should avoid the risk of grid connections not being ready in time, and so help reduce the cost of project finance.

"These are very positive measures for offshore wind energy in France," Monnier said. "They will support cost reduction and the competitiveness of the French industry."

The government will now issue decrees defining how compensation will be calculated and fixing ceilings on how much RTE will have to pay in percentage and absolute terms, explained Marion Lettry, assistant executive commissioner of renewable-energy trade body SER.

The first project to follow the new rules will be the 250-750MW site being tendered off Dunkirk.

Permit envelope

The industry is also eagerly awaiting the passage of another law going through parliament aimed at further simplifying the regulatory framework and derisking offshore projects.

Measures include introducing a "permit envelope", whereby all necessary permits would be secured before the tender and which would avoid candidates having to lock in technical choices too soon. The authorities would carry out environmental impact assessments and other preliminary studies, while public debates would be held earlier in the process to improve acceptability.

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