Pleasant surprise in French tender results

A sizeable 64.5 MW of wind power -- instead of the planned 35 MW -- has been selected for construction under the second round of France's Eole 2005 wind programme. With the larger than expected selection, utility Electricité de France (EDF) took a welcome stride towards wind. Last spring the industry heavily criticised the selection of only 13.5 MW of wind capacity for the first tender, undershooting a 15 MW promise (Windpower Monthly, May 1997).

This time, 20 projects were chosen from 43 eligible proposals. They are concentrated along the Mediterranean and northern coasts and on Corsica, with a few projects scattered in French colonies overseas. Once the tender projects are built, wind capacity in France will rise to about 80 MW -- modest by international standards, but an impressive growth for a country that had just 6 MW of operating wind power on its mainland less than a year ago.

The principle of the tender is similar to Britain's system of competitive bidding for renewable energy contracts, the Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO). Eole 2005 aims to support installation of 250-500 MW of wind power over the next ten years.

The clear winner of this round is Jean-Michel Germa, whose La Compagnie du Vent swept more than a third of the winning bids with more than 22 MW of contracts. Nearly all of his proposals combined the financial backing of Paribas with Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas. Smaller slices of the cake were awarded to Eole Technologie, allied to Enron Wind Power and Zond of California, which proposed two projects totalling 12 MW to be located in La Hague in northern France and Le Souleilla Treilles in the south. France's huge Jeumont Industrie concern was also given the go ahead for its 7.5 MW proposal at Escales Conilhad in the south of France.

Orleans based Vergnet dominated the overseas island scene with its small wind turbine technology. The company was awarded contracts to build 5.4 MW on the Guadeloupe islands in the Caribbean Sea -- adding to its 2.4 MW portfolio awarded there in the first round -- as well as a 600 kW station on St. Pierre et Miquelon, near Newfoundland, Canada. Vergnet and other contract winners have three years to complete project installation.

As a result of the bidding process, the payment for wind energy was settled at FFR 0.337/kWh and contracts will run for 15 years. In Corsica and the islands overseas, the EDF's average cost of electricity is more than FFR 1.5/kWh and thus the utility will benefit financially from the new investment. In future tenders, remote areas such as these, where EDF has a mandate allowing it to increase tariffs, will probably be treated separately.

Some trends appeared in the aftermath of the tender. Most evident was that the selection board has been dominated by the weight of energy agency ADEME, despite the presence of the Ministry of Industry. Project criteria such as economic and industrial benefits, environmental impact or public opinion thus seemed to be overlooked as ADEME pursued its own interests. Furthermore, mechanisms for a regional balance of contracts was inefficient, with the southern region receiving more than double the amount of new power than the north -- and large areas of France still untouched by wind power.

Meantime, ADEME is apparently keen to advertise its good intentions towards wind. Earlier in the year it requested a French-Danish TV film company, Loke Film, to produce an information film about wind energy. "It will mainly concentrate on which parameters should be taken into account during the planning phase," says Margit Knoblauch of Loke. These include siting, economics, choice of technology, cost, and distribution of the electricity. The film is being prepared with the support of the Danish energy agency and the Danish wind industry, adds Knoblauch, and will include scenes from several countries in northern Europe.

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