Chirac commits to renewables -- France 6000 MW target

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The government of Jacques Chirac has declared its intention to install 2000-6000 MW of wind power capacity on French territory by the year 2007, of which 500-1500 MW should be ashore. This is the first public affirmation that it intends to continue the previous government's policy of promoting renewables in line with the EU renewable directive and the Kyoto climate change treaty.

The 6000 MW target is set out in the latest Pluriannual Investment Program (PPI) announced by industry minister Nicole Fontaine. It is a statement of government policy on electricity generation between now and 2007. The commitment to renewables is particularly significant because the PPI comes at the start of France's national energy debate, which will culminate in a law on energy policy later in the year (Windpower Monthly, March 2003).

According to the PPI, France is still aiming to meet its EU target of 21% of its electricity generated from renewable sources. Today's contribution is 15%, mainly from large hydro. Wind is expected to provide the lion's share of the new renewables capacity and much smaller targets are set for other energy sources, including 1000 MW for hydro power, 400 for biomass and 50 MW for photovoltaics.

At present France has an installed wind capacity of around 150 MW, with growth stymied by permitting problems. Its seems the 6000 MW target can only be reached by a reform of permitting procedures. At present France has a favourable price regime, but an estimated nine out of ten planning applications for wind farms are rejected, mainly at the local level. The PPI "must be backed up by the creation of a precise and stable administrative framework, in which all levels of government authority participate, to permit us to meet the target," warns the Syndicate for Renewable Energy, one of the groups that has been negotiating with government.

With campaign groups protesting about more wind farms being installed in the French countryside, the French wind industry is likely to follow Britain's example and move offshore. France has no offshore wind farms yet and there are no legal and planning frameworks to allow them to be built. The size of the PPI target is widely seen as a sign that the government will soon establish procedures for building offshore and issue calls for tender.

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