France wants to catch up on renewable energy
France’s new law to expand the previously neglected renewable energies has sparked criticism from environmental organizations. “It will further slow down the expansion of wind turbines in rural areas,” Greenpeace commented on the law passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday evening, which still has to go through the mediation committee.
The organization WWF complained that the law does not go far enough. The obligation to set up solar systems should also have been extended to smaller parking lots and existing buildings, the organization stressed.
Among other things, the law stipulates that shade roofs with solar systems will gradually become mandatory on parking lots with more than 1500 square meters. In addition, further offshore wind farms and a reduction in bureaucracy are planned.
“The law now officially recognizes the need to massively and rapidly expand renewable energy to protect the climate and ensure energy security,” said Daniel Bour, chairman of a solar energy trade association.
MPs passed the bill under chaotic circumstances. Due to a breakdown in the electronic voting system, 577 roll-call ballot papers had to be printed and distributed in a hurry. The vote was delayed by several hours and then took place parallel to the presentation of the pension reform by Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne.
The law is necessary “to make up for our delay in renewable energies,” said Minister for the Energy Transition Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who then had to break off her speech because of a fit of coughing.
The bill passed by a vote of 286 to 238. Since the government camp no longer has an absolute majority, it was dependent on votes from the left-wing alliance Nupes. Ultimately, however, only the Socialists voted for it. The Greens abstained because they think the law doesn’t go far enough.
France is the only country in Europe that has not yet achieved the goals it has set itself for the expansion of renewable energies. A share of 23 percent was planned by 2020, but only 19.3 percent was achieved.
A good year ago, President Emmanuel Macron announced that solar energy capacity would increase tenfold by 2050 and reach at least 100 gigawatts. In 2021, France had just installed systems with a capacity of 15 gigawatts, in Germany it was 59 gigawatts.
France also lags behind in Europe when it comes to wind energy. It takes an average of seven years to set up a wind turbine. However, some bureaucratic hurdles should now be removed by the new law.
The right of the local mayor to have a say remains particularly controversial. The law now stipulates that the municipalities should be involved in designating suitable areas for wind turbines or solar systems. The left, however, fear a de facto right of veto for the mayor.
At the request of the right-wing opposition, which regularly rails against the “disfigurement of the countryside,” the law includes a passage that “visual saturation” is to be avoided. Wind turbines “spoil the eyes and the brain,” said right-wing populist MP Pierre Meurin.
Due to the great unpopularity of wind turbines in rural areas, more wind farms are to be built off the coast. Although France, excluding its overseas territories, has around 5,500 kilometers of coastline, there is only one offshore farm at Saint-Nazaire, which includes 80 wind turbines.
The right-wing opposition had unsuccessfully demanded a minimum distance of 40 kilometers from the coast. Instead, a good 22 meters are now planned.
The law is now going to the mediation committee and is expected to be finally passed in February. From January 17, the Senate will also debate the planned expansion of nuclear power.