Progress in French planning laws slow but sure

Legal challenges to onshore wind projects in France should move faster through the courts thanks to two measures enacted on 1 December, giving hope to 2GW of pipeline capacity.

The French wind industry is still waiting for the logjam of project applications to pass

Cases will now be filed straight to the administrative appeal court, skipping the lower-level administrative tribunal, as has already been introduced for offshore projects.

Additionally, once the defense has submitted its reply to the challenge, the applicant has a limit of two months in which it can submit new arguments.

"It will no longer be possible for opponents to keep dragging cases out," said Pierre Bourdier, legal affairs and environment manager at French wind energy association FEE.

The plans to change France’s approvals procedure were first announced in January.

While the industry welcomed the reforms, it is still waiting for the government to designate a new environmental authority and release the permitting logjam, which is stifling deployment in France.

The government recently said it would issue a decree on this in January, but Bourdier is doubtful. 

"They have made such announcements before, and then postponed several times," he said.

Jean-Louis Bal, president of renewable-energy trade body SER, added: "It is now urgent to publish [this] highly anticipated decree, ... without which the benefits of the new simplification measures ... will be nullified."