France Sets Ambitious Renewable
Jan 2, 2008 - Jane Burgermeister
|Photo Credit:Southwest Windpower
Wind and solar power are at the heart
of a big new push by the French government to increase
the renewable share of the country's total energy
consumption from 6.7 percent in 2004 to 20 percent
The government has set the target
of raising its installed capacity for wind power
from 810 megawatts (MW) in 2006 to 25,000 MW by
2020. Also, installed capacity for photovoltaic
(PV) power is to increase from 32.7 MW in 2006 —
about 100 times less than Germany — to 3,000 MW
"These targets mark a new era in the development
of wind and solar power in France, and though
they are ambitious, they can be achieved."
--Jean-Michel Parroufe, Renewable Energy
Division Head, French Environment and Energy
In addition, 5 million solar thermal
units are to be installed in buildings by 2020,
80 percent of these in homes.
Biomass accounts for two thirds of
all the renewables used in France today and hydro
power for another third. Solar and wind power still
play a marginal role.
"These targets mark a new era in the
development of wind and solar power in France, and
though they are ambitious, they can be achieved,"
Jean-Michel Parroufe head of the renewable energy
division at the French Environment and Energy Management
Agency (Ademe, Agence de l'Environnement et de la
Maîtrise de l'Energie), told RenewableEnergyAccess.com.
He said the plan would change the
structure of France's primary energy consumption
— 275 million TOE (tons of oil equivalent) in 2006
— so that 20 percent would come from renewables,
25 percent from nuclear and 55 percent from fossil
fuels by 2020, saving 20 million tons of oil.
"From now on a bigger range of renewable
energies, and not just biomass, will help meet the
challenge of fighting global warming in France,"
Parroufe, however, admitted it would
not be easy for France to reach the target for wind.
With just 810 MW of installed capacity,
France is the third biggest market in Europe behind
Germany with 2233 MW and Spain with 1587 MW.
Installed wind capacity has been growing
rapidly, doubling in 2004 and also in 2005 following
a change in the law that had prohibited the state
electrical company EDF Electricity France from buying
electricity from wind parks over 12 MW.
According to Parroufe, the most difficult
part of meeting the wind target will be "finding
enough good sites for the wind turbines because
they shouldn't spoil the landscape. It is a big
target but we believe the right financial and legal
framework is in place and we can make a leap forward
in wind power," he said.
The government has already laid solid
foundations for growth in renewables by introducing
more favorable feed-in tariffs for electricity from
wind and solar power in July 2006 as well as tax
As a result of the tax breaks, solar
thermal systems grew by 80 percent in 2006 to reach
210 MW of installed capacity.
Growth in PV installed capacity was
150 percent in 2006 boosted by a base feed-in tariff
of 30 cents per KW/h for PV electricity in cities,
said Rachel Massion from Enerplan, the Professional
Association for Solar Energy [Association Professionelle
de l'Energie Solaire].
"We expect the same sorts of figures
this year and in the future," Rachel Masson told
RenewableEnergyAccess.com. "Photovoltaics are growing
at different rates in different parts of the country
depending on the policies of the local authorities."
The Pays de Loire has become the leader
in France with 1.4 MW of installed capacity followed
by the Languedoc Rousillon, which has 1.18 MW because
of special incentives for integrating solar panels
Also, the city of Narbonne plans to
build a 9 MW PV station to supply energy for public
buildings and street lighting.
In spite of the growth in the wind
and solar sectors, biomass will continue to provide
the lion's share of renewables in France even in
2020, Parroufe said.
With 9.3 million TOEs in 2006, France
is the biggest consumer of fuel wood in Europe after
Sweden and Finland: more than 40 percent of all
domestic heating systems in the country today use
wood as fuel — and the number is growing.
However, Parouffe said that expanding
the use of biomass would require setting up a better
network for collecting wood from the country's forests.
Other measures that the French government
has announced on the renewable front include huge
new investments in renewable energy research, like
developing second generation biofuels.
To boost the use of biogas, in 2006
the government increased the price by 50 percent
as an incentive for drivers to use cleaner cars,
such as electric and hybrid models.
Also, energy performance certificates
recording the carbon emissions of new cars became
obligatory in May 2006 and financial incentives
were introduced to make cars with low carbon emissions
The President of France Nicolas Sarkozy
announced the new push for more renewables and more
energy-efficiency to fight climate change in October
following a three-month consultation period with
representatives from environmental, business and
He said that cutting carbon emissions
would be factored in to all government decisions
in the future, including the construction of new
buildings and the handling of waste.
The French parliament is set to pass
the law in 2008.
Jane Burgermeister is a RenewableEnergyAccess.com
European Correspondent based in Vienna, Austria.