French talks with December deadline

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French wind farm developers are negotiating with the energy ministry over the best way to meet the country's ambitious new target of 3000 MW of wind power by 2010, announced in May by Prime Minister Lionel Jospin. The likely solution -- a combination of competitive tendering and fixed premium wind tariffs -- could, however, fall foul of EU policies on competition.

A series of meetings began last month between ministry officials and representatives of the French Wind Energy Association (FEE), the Syndicat de Energies Renouvelables, and the Association Française des Industriels de l'Eolien (Afineole) to hammer out arrangements for the leap in capacity needed. By the end of the year, France will have just less than 100 MW installed. The Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (ADEME) and national utility EDF are also involved in the talks.

The results of the negotiations will form the basis of an industry ministry decree expected before or at a national wind conference on December 7-8. The decree will be one of a number of legislative measures putting into effect the electricity law passed on February 10 to bring France into the EU's Internal Energy Market.

The new wind support, which will replace the Eole-2005 program and its competitive bidding for contracts, is expected to retain the tender system for projects over 12 MW, but to fix a tariff for smaller projects. It is probable that a variable tariff will be applied to cater for the different wind speeds between the two main areas of activity: the windy Languedoc on the Mediterranean and the relatively less windy northwestern Atlantic seaboard. A variable tariff, it is believed, will prevent the concentration of wind plant in a few areas..

"We need a price we can work with to go up to 3000 MW and beyond, to make use of sites with lower wind speeds," says Jean-Marc Armitano of FEE. "But we are not only talking about prices: a sensible index linking of the tariff is also important."

Jospin restated his commitment to post-Kyoto environmental measures, including ways to encourage the use of renewables, at a conference in Lyon on September 11 to prepare for next month's climate change convention in The Hague. The French renewables community is waiting to see how Jospin reacts to a long-awaited report presented to him by Green member of parliament and vice-president of the National Assembly, Yves Cochet.

The report sets out 137 measures that the government could take to increase renewable energy and suggests that France should opt for a "feed-in" system obliging all local utilities to take renewables power fed into their grids at a fixed premium price, similar to the support system used in Germany. Cochet stresses that the 3000 MW target is far too low and France should be aiming for 10,000 MW by 2010. He strongly recommends a wind tariff of FFR 0.5/kWh (EUR 0.076/kWh).

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