Permitting limbo threatens French deployment

FRANCE: No new projects in France can secure permits following a court ruling at the end of 2017, meaning the forthcoming auction is set to be undersubscribed.

France's permitting debacle threatens almost 5GW of pipeline capacity
France's permitting debacle threatens almost 5GW of pipeline capacity

Up to 5GW of onshore wind power projects in France are under threat following a court decision in December 2017, which overturned the environmental permitting system.

At least 3GW of projects seeking consent are frozen, and 2GW of authorised projects face "a high risk of cancellation by the administrative courts," French wind energy association FEE warned.

The blockage results from a legal challenge by the non-governmental organisation France Nature Environment (FNE), which was upheld by France's highest administrative court.

The court ruled the regional authorities could not act as both the environmental authority required to assess the environmental impact study and also deliver the final authorisation.

As a result, no environmental permits have been awarded since December and no projects have been able to obtain full consent.

Because only fully permitted projects are eligible to enter France's new tender system for onshore wind, FEE estimated less than 300MW in bids have been submitted in the second round, which closed on 1 June.

This compares to 900MW bid and 508MW awarded in the first round.

Further, permitted projects that are still in the appeal period are liable to be challenged and the permits cancelled, FEE warned.

The government had promised to rectify the situation, but only recently issued a draft decree giving the regional environmental missions (MRAe) the right to judge the quality of the impact study.

Nevertheless, it is unlikely the decree will be finalised before the autumn, and then permits will have to be reissued and applications already in the system be reassessed.

"It is imperative that … the executive allows faster processing of blocked files for which a new environmental authority opinion will be required," Olivier Perot, president of FEE, declared.

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