I attended the 18th annual conference of the Renewable Energy Union (SER) on 30 January in Paris. The event gathered all the main French players in renewable energy as well as many national and European public organisations. Apart from the chance to discuss industry activity with contacts old and new, one of the highlights of the conference was a 75-minute renewable energy policy panel debate between the main French political parties (although The Socialist Party was not represented). The Presidential campaign has not yet featured environment and energy topics, so this event was the first peak of the various parties’ visions for renewable energy.
As you’ll probably know, the Energy Transition (LTE) and the Energy multi-annual programming (PPE) laws have set objectives for the development of renewable energy. For offshore wind, the objective is 3GW installed by 2023 with a further 6GW of new capacity awarded. The industry is now asking for clear communications on volume and tender planning with favourable regulation to enable price reduction and the development of a strong French supply chain. The Presidential campaign is not at a stage where the candidates will go into detail but there are strong expectations from the sector.
Les Républicains (right wing) stated that they would work within the framework of the objectives of the LTE and PPE, and would give a clear outline to the sector with engagement on 3 or 5 years volumes and grant 1.5 GW of newly added capacity per year. En Marche (central left) stated they were in favour of the single “Permit”.
The EELV (Green Party) announced that they would target 40% of renewable energy in the mix by 2030 and the progressive exit from nuclear by 2035.
The Front National (extreme right) stated its ambition to do without fossil energy and raise protectionism for the transition to renewables to benefit French companies.
Finally, the representative of Jean-Luc Mélenchon (Hard Left) announced a goal of 100% renewables by 2050.
All candidates stated their ambitions to limit further “stop and go” measures to create stability in the renewable market. They all agreed on the need to implement simplification measures and limit legal challenges and the associated delay in the development process. Both announcements are reassuring for the French offshore sector, which is already fighting multiple legal battles and would not survive a drawback from first projects by the Government.
The second main topic was the carbon market. The Republicans are in favour of a strong European carbon price as are EELV, even if both noted the limitations of such a system and looked to the new emission trading system under renegotiation in the EU to address these. En Marche, J.L Mélenchon and the Front National were more sceptical and both En Marche and J.L Mélenchon proposed an alternative “reward system”.
It was heartening to hear all the candidates agree on the importance of keeping renewable energies in the energy mix and to achieve French commitments toward renewable energy. For France to have continued interest in developing offshore wind, the industry will need to ensure that French project start to see the same cost improvement seen elsewhere in Europe so it can compete with other technologies, particularly onshore wind and solar.