State-run national advisory committee welcomed

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The exact scope and powers of a state-run national wind power committee in France are still under debate, but in principle it will help formulate and oversee a "national vision" for wind. Antoine Saglio of the Renewable Energy Syndicate (SER) says the advisory committee is a "good idea which has been a long time coming." One its most important roles will be to support the prefects, the appointed officials who head up each region. At the moment, too many prefects cave in to the small but vociferous anti wind farm lobby, Saglio believes. While the industry ministry says roughly one-third of applications are rejected, SER believes the refusal rate is closer to 50%. This might change if a national committee has to be faced. Regional wind power targets are crucial to boosting the approval rate, says Jean-Marc Armitano of the French Wind Energy Association (FEE). "At present, some prefects grant a couple of permits and think they have done their job," he says. They are far more likely to approve projects if well-defined -- and agreed -- objectives are in place. Energy agency ADEME hopes to have targets ready for introduction by ministerial decree later this year. Meantime, some regions have established their own wind power "charters" and departmental committees, with the department of Picardy demonstrating how successful that can be: its approval rate for planning applications is significantly above the national average. Armitano is doubtful about the long term success of such ad hoc arrangements, where there is no consistent methodology and where they do not necessarily chime with national objectives. "The government should say to prefects: this is your target. Now, where can you build farms in order to meet it?" he argues.

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