Europe: Grenelle de la Mer - Staking a place in marine energy

The long-term strategy for marine energy development in French territorial waters, launched last month, aims to establish a coherent, integrated framework for the installation of 6000 MW of operating offshore renewables generation by 2020, as part of the country's overall 23% clean energy target.

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"Plan Energies Bleues," introduced by environment minister Jean-Louis Borloo, provides a solid industrial base in the marine energies sector, as France looks to becoming a leading player on the international stage.

The plan priorities setting up demonstration projects for the various forms of marine energy, with a view to developing the most promising - and socially and environmentally acceptable - technologies to a pre-industrial stage by 2015. The projects include floating wind turbines for deep-water deployment as well as tidal and thermal electricity generation.

Plan Energies Bleues also calls for a world-class research center for marine energies; proposals will be requested later this year. Funding for these initiatives will come largely from the EUR400 million "demonstrator research fund" established last year under the auspices of the national energy agency Ademe.

Policy ambitions

The marine plan is just one of the outcomes of Grenelle de la Mer, a national summit launched in February to determine an integrated policy for France's entire marine resource, from sustainably managing fish stocks to designing next-generation ships and ports. Following the same format as the earlier Grenelle de L'Environment (Windpower Monthly, December 2007) for national environmental policy, the marine summit aims to be just as ambitious and far-reaching.

Representatives of the state, elected officials, employers, unions and environmental groups took part in a series of round-table discussions. Members of the public could participate via online forums and local meetings. The exercise resulted in 138 broad commitments, which were published in a "Blue Book" last month.

As with the government's Plan Energies Bleues, the Blue Book calls for better planning and support for marine energies, clarification of regulations and sufficient capacity ensured on the grid. As part of this exercise, the regional authorities around the coast of France have been asked to determine suitable areas for projects to be built (Windpower Monthly, April 2009). These plans, which are to be submitted by 15 September, will allow the government to identify where to channel investment in such areas as grid connections, port facilities and support vessels.

The next stage is for the Blue Book recommendations to be endorsed by the inter-ministerial maritime committee (CIMER), for the legal framework to be addressed and the broad commitments fleshed out with facts and figures. As with the Grenelle itself, it remains to be seen how many of these good intentions become reality, especially in a difficult economic landscape.

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