Energy security: France takes emergency measures to boost wind and solar

France gets around 20% of its electricity from renewable sources – 8% from wind energy, but it needs more to meet its climate goals while reinforcing energy security.  The war in Ukraine and disruptions in its conventional electricity generation fleet are putting France’s energy system under stress.  The French Government is taking unprecedented steps to maximise renewable electricity generation as part of the solution.

Wind energy is available locally and doesn’t need to be imported from other countries.  It’s competitive and doesn’t depend on the market price of fossil fuels.  And it saves money to Governments and consumers.  Wind energy will contribute €8bn to France’s State revenue in 2022-23:  under Government-backed Contracts for Difference (CfDs) project developers pay Governments the difference between the State-guaranteed purchase price of electricity and the wholesale electricity market price, which is currently very high due to the war in Ukraine.  As more wind energy continue to be deployed, savings will increase.

But inflation and higher commodity costs are putting certain renewable energy investments at risk.  The French Government estimates that 5-6 GW of wind projects and 6-7 GW of solar projects may not go ahead because of the current economic environment.  The Government has therefore announced several emergency measures to boost renewable electricity generation ahead of the winter.  Among them is the possibility for new wind and solar farms to sell their electricity directly on the market for 18 months before locking in their CfDs, and the possibility for projects that have already won an auction to increase their capacity by up to 40% before completion.  The Government also plans to factor the evolution of raw material costs into Contracts for Difference.  These immediate measures will be completed by an upcoming emergency law on further accelerating the deployment of renewables in France.

In parallel, the French Government doubled the size of the planned Oléron offshore wind zone (Atlantic ocean) to 2 GW, following a public consultation with more than 15,000 participants.  The choice of the wind zone reflects the attention given to the local environment, and the complementarity of clean energy projects with biodiversity protection.  France wants to build 40 GW of offshore wind by 2050 spread over 50 wind farms.  The country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, located in St Nazaire, started sending electricity to the grid this June, and offshore already employs more than 5,000 people in France.  The industry aims to quadruple this to over 20,000 direct and indirect jobs.

WindEurope Chief Policy Officer Pierre Tardieu said: “The French Government is taking unprecedented steps to boost wind power generation and deal with the current energy crisis.  The wind sector is ready and fully committed to playing its part in securing France’s and Europe’s energy supply.  The Government’s emergency measures mean more electricity generation in the coming months, and more energy security for French businesses and citizens.  At the same time, the announcement of a 2 GW wind zone off the Oléron island confirms France is serious about its big offshore wind plans.  And the broad consultation process shows this can be done with the support of the community.  And that wind energy projects and biodiversity protection can be mutually beneficial.”