Counting the numbers -- French source for facts and figures

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Although France is Europe's wind energy laggard, it is a French organisation that has become a de facto, independent source of information of renewable energies on the continent. The Observatoire des Énergies Renouvelables, more usually known as Observ'ER, was created 20 years ago to widely and fairly communicate information on renewables. Originally its work was mostly concerned with solar energy but it has progressively taken an interest in all renewables and grown in status and importance. It now acts as a collector and publisher of information, comparing the progress of the different renewables industries against official European objectives, publishing information in a variety of forms, and supplying briefings to the press in French and English.

One of Observ'ER's most important publications is the bimonthly Barometer of Renewable Energy Sources, a world overview of the progress of renewables. With backing from the French environment agency ADEME and EC support via the Altener energy program since 1998, Observ'ER also publishes statistics for measuring the progress of renewables in the EU states.

Although Observ'ER works in partnership with EU agencies, it prides itself on its independence and its wide perspective on the issues of the day. The aim is not to be a campaigning organisation but to report the facts, correct errors and, where necessary, to offer objective criticism. "Our job is to recount the figures," says Lo•c Blanchard. "There are forty odd sources in Europe and we harmonise them and make them comparable."

After so many years of watching renewables develop around the world and in Europe, it is some relief that the staff of Observ'ER can now report progress on the wind front in France. "Things are going slowly in France," admits Yves-Bruno Civel, director of Observ'ER. "I am an optimist. I am an observer and I say, despite everything, things are advancing." Observ'ER is also behind the French renewables magazine Systèmes Solaires and an occasional English language periodical called Renewable Energy Journal.

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