Long awaited power purchase decree arrives

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The French government has published its long-awaited decree on the purchase of power from renewables, but not the all-important prices to go with it. They will follow shortly. Decree 2001-410 was issued on May 10 by prime minister Lionel Jospin, the economy and industry minister Laurent Fabius, and the industry secretary Christian Pierret. It lays down the conditions under which the relevant government ministries will fulfil their obligation to buy power from renewables as stipulated in a law on electricity passed by the National Assembly in February 2000. A first decree stemming from the act was issued in December and committed the government to a renewable energy feed-in tariff system, fixing a premium price to be paid for electricity for renewable sources of energy. Under the terms of the latest decree, producers of renewable energies must meet a series of criteria if they are to be eligible for the favourable prices under the purchase obligation. They will then be entitled to sell the power they generate to the state utility, Electricité de France (EDF), at the stipulated price. Wind power plant must be no more than 12 MW in size. Following the issue of this latest decree, the government will consult with the Commission de Régulation de l'Electricité (CRE) before publishing the purchase prices for each renewable in a series of industry-specific arrêts (rulings). The price for wind energy should be known in June or July. While the government stated its intentions in public at the end of last year, the French wind community is not ruling out variations when it comes to the writing of the small print. "The devil is in the detail," cautions André Antolini, president of the renewables umbrella group, the Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables, and a vice-president of the European Wind Energy Association. According to a government announcement in December, the new price structure will allow operators of wind farms under 12 MW to sign contracts with EDF for 15 years. EDF will be obliged to buy the electricity they produce at a tariff of FFR 0.55/kWh (EUR 0.08/kWh) for the first five years, and FFR 0.20-0.55/kWh (EUR 0.03-0.08/kWh) during the subsequent ten years, the amount varying according to the productivity of the site.

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