French targets to be set in law -- Grenelle I presented

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The French government is prepared to set its revised national and European renewable energy targets in law, which will require raising installed wind capacity to 25,000 MW by 2020, of which 6000 MW will be located offshore. France has 2942 MW of wind power today, all on land.

The undertaking comes in the first draft law resulting from the Grenelle de l'Environnement, a national summit to formulate government environment policy. Known as Grenelle I, the bill sets out the broad commitments made at the end of the summit last autumn (Windpower Monthly, December 2007). Among these, the share of renewable energy is to be increased to 20% of final consumption by 2020 from a base level of 10.3% in 2005.

The wind industry welcomes the target, which matches the figure the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER) proposed in its submission to Grenelle. "It is good news and now we need to get it cast in iron," says SER president André Antolini.

The other good news is that the draft commits to setting intermediary objectives for each renewables sector for 2012. Though the actual breakdown is not given, it is likely to be close to that stated in the final report of the "operations committee" charged with formulating an action plan for renewables in the light of the Grenelle conclusions. This calls for 10,500 MW of onshore wind capacity and 1000 MW offshore by the end of 2012.

The targets are generally acknowledged as ambitious, but SER points out that France already has 3500 MW of licensed wind projects waiting to build and a further 25,000 MW under development. Nevertheless, the offshore target looks particularly tough. France's first 105 MW offshore installation has only just started building and the rest are still on the drawing board.

The pace of development needs to pick up if the targets are to be met. The draft law does not go into much detail about how this will be achieved, beyond saying access to planning and innovation will be improved and research spending beefed up to equal that spent on industrial nuclear research. Specifically, the state will allocate an extra EUR 1 billion over four years to research in sustainable development, including renewables.

Money mystery

Where the funds for this and other measures in the bill are to come from remains to be seen, but they will probably be presented in the 2009 budget. Environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo refuses to put a figure on exactly how much state financing will be required." Just because the state's coffers are empty, it does not mean we will stop investing."

Promising that "innovative methods" would be used, Borloo argues it "should not be considered as expenditure, but as investment." He estimates the measures, if fully adopted, will lead to an increase of 0.8% in gross domestic product and the creation of 500,000 jobs. But first the law has to get through parliament, and without being watered down. A first reading is hoped for before the summer recess starts in mid-July.

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