Europe: France Policy plans become law - Regions must now draw up renewables plan

The first of the policies developed two years ago at the Grenelle de l'Environnement - a national summit to formulate government environment policy (Windpower Monthly, September 2007) - has come into law.

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Reaching the statute books last month, Grenelle 1, as it was dubbed, sets out the broad policy and confirms France's European commitment that by 2020 at least 23% of final energy consumption will come from renewable resources. To meet this target, wind is expected to provide around 25 GW of installed capacity, of which 6 GW will be offshore. Intermediary targets for each sector will be established later this year, with a progress report in 2012.

The policy confirms that each region of France must draw up a "renewable energy plan" by July 2010, identifying its potential and establishing where wind power plant can be built. It also states that improvements will be made to the grid to increase the uptake of renewable energies, and to the local consultation and the regulatory frameworks.

Local authorities interested in installing their own generating capacity will be pleased to note that the government will consider allowing them to benefit from the guaranteed premium purchase price for electricity.

Research will prioritise renewable energies, and EUR1 billion will be allocated to sustainable development research - including climate change and "energies of the future." The policy also stipulates that the amount spent on research into clean technologies and protecting the environment will gradually increase to equal that spent on civil nuclear research.

The draft bill for Grenelle 2, the crucial piece of legislation that will specify how the policies will be implemented, is expected to have its first hearing in this month with a final version approved by the end of the year.

It also remains to be seen exactly how these measures will be financed. In his speech at the conclusion of the Grenelle summit in October 2007, President Nicolas Sarkozy said that "there can be no question of raising the tax rate" and promised that "Grenelle taxes will finance Grenelle decisions," referring to carbon pricing, fossil-fuel taxes and so forth.

Sarkozy confirmed his support for the Grenelle in June this year, saying that renewable energy will dominate the government agenda, as nuclear energy did in the 1960s. While France will not abandon its nuclear platform, the President stated that "to think we do not need renewable energies is an error," and repeated his commitment to meet the 2020 target: "We are at 10% today; we will be at 23% in 2020 ... It is a minimum and under no circumstances a maximum."

He then asked environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo to conduct a general review of the "state of play" of renewable energies in France this autumn. Exactly what form this will take remains unclear, but meanwhile, Borloo has commissioned a report designed to identify the obstacles that might hinder progress towards the 2020 target, particularly regarding wind and solar power. Preliminary findings will be produced in the autumn, followed by a full report next spring.

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