France

France

Kick off for a French evolution -- La Grenelle

"We want to make France a leader in renewables, over and above the European target of 20% of our energy consumption by 2020," proclaimed French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the Grenelle de l'Environnement, a national summit to formulate government environment policy. The bid for leadership in renewables was just one element of a wide ranging policy program resulting from the summit with the aim of making the French economy environmentally sustainable.

"We want to make France a leader in renewables, over and above the European target of 20% of our energy consumption by 2020," proclaimed French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the end of the Grenelle de l'Environnement, a national summit to formulate government environment policy. The bid for leadership in renewables was just one element of a wide ranging policy program resulting from the summit with the aim of making the French economy environmentally sustainable. It was hailed as a green revolution and the dawn of a new democracy.

By mid November the euphoria had died down, leaving many wondering how it is all going to be paid for without, as Sarkozy promised, reducing household purchasing power. Sarkozy's speech followed submission of detailed proposals by eight broad-based working groups (Windpower Monthly, September 2007).

Increasing the share of renewables from 9% today to at least 20% by 2020 requires raising installed capacity to 25,000 MW, says the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER), compared with 2500 MW today. SER points out that France already has 3500 MW of licensed wind projects waiting to build and a further 25,000 MW under development.

A separate target for France's overseas territories to meet 50% of energy use from sustainable resources by 2020 -- with the island of Corsica to be a renewable energy showcase (box) -- is welcomed by SER. It also lauds an increase in research spending.

Sarkozy made the surprise announcement that there will be a moratorium on building new nuclear plant, though the European Pressurised Reactor at Flamanville will still go ahead. But meeting the climate challenge without nuclear is an "illusion," he said, that would require renouncing economic growth. Nuclear power will account for a smaller share of France's energy consumption, as will "carbon-based" energies, while at the same time the government will launch a "renewable energy development plan." Wind turbines are acceptable, he said, but they should first be built in brownfield areas away from "emblematic" sites. "Frankly, when I fly over a number of European countries what I see does not recommend wind energy," he said.

SER's André Antolini, while admitting he would rather not have heard this statement, played it down, preferring to focus on the largely positive aspects of Sarkozy's speech. The Grenelle marks the beginning of "a new era for renewable energies and energy efficiency" believes Antolini.

Among energy-saving measures to cut consumption by 20% by 2020, Sarkozy announced the banning of incandescent light-bulbs from 2010. A range of carbon reduction policies are being discussed, including taxing goods with a relatively high carbon content. France will double its high-speed rail network, increase the freight going by rail by 25% by 2012, and impose a ban on building new motorways.

Fossil fuel ta

xFrance will also support the idea of a tax on fossil fuels at a global or sector level, said Sarkozy, provided the overall tax burden is not increased, and he repeated his call for a tax on imports from countries which do not comply with the Kyoto Protocol. The issues are likely be raised when France takes over the EU presidency in July.

A series of working groups will be charged with translating the outcome of the Grenelle into action plans, including how they will be financed. These will feed into a new framework law to be put before parliament early next year. Everyone will be watching to see that Sarkozy keeps his promises and that none of the measures so loudly trumpeted get watered down. In this respect, the hard part of the Grenelle has only just begun.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Windpower Monthly Events


Latest Jobs