Law on renewable energies: solar and offshore wind take the lion’s share

Law on renewable energies: solar and offshore wind take the lion’s share

Posted Dec 16 2022 at 17:50

While France could experience its first power cuts in several decades, the National Assembly completed this week the examination of the very first bill aimed at accelerating the production of renewable energies. Nine days and a little over sixty hours of debate – at first reading – for a text that emerged from the Palais Bourbon swollen with more than three hundred and fifty amendments (there were more than three thousand of them to be studied), of which nearly half from the opposition.

This extremely technical text, on which the deputies will solemnly vote only on January 10, is therefore very different from the one which was adopted by a very large majority by the senators at the beginning of November. But one thing is certain: he has a strong preference for solar energy and offshore wind power, in line with Emmanuel Macron’s speech in Belfort last February, in which the Head of State had presented his vision of France’s energy future.

Solar by the sea

Parliamentarians have thus validated an obligation to install solar panels in outdoor car parks of more than 1,500 square meters, with penalties in the event of non-compliance. To respond to the lack of land, new derogations from the Coastal Law have been adopted to be able to install solar installations on wasteland by the sea.

Installations will also be easier on old landfills or old quarries. Ecologists would have liked to go even further, to solarize any type of surface that has already been artificialized. On this point, “the text lacks a lot of ambition”, regrets Charles Fournier, the leader of the environmental group on the bill.

As for offshore wind turbines, they must be located primarily in the exclusive economic zone, at least 22 kilometers from the coast. But the text, which simplifies the procedures for consulting local actors, does not set any formal obligation of minimum distance. To the chagrin of several deputies. On the other hand, it establishes planning for offshore wind power, with a mapping of “priority” zones.

“Acceleration zones”

This is also one of the flagship measures of the bill: its article 3 provides that local authorities define “acceleration zones” to implement renewable energies. If the mayors do not have the right of veto as ardently defended by the right, they will have control of the cartography and therefore the last word – an “assent” – on the definition of these zones.

According to the lawyer specializing in environmental law Arnaud Gossement, this planning could however potentially take between two and four years. “There is a risk that hangs over all renewable energies: that the prefects choose to lift the pen, while the mayors do their mapping,” he fears.

The Minister for Energy Transition, Agnès Pannier-Runacher, who carried the text, had called for avoiding “dogmatic postures”. But, several pitched battles took place. On wind turbines first, and their “nuisance”. A “nightmare”, according to RN deputy from Gard Pierre Meurin.

The debates experienced another major sticking point when the Assembly reintroduced a key provision to reduce appeals. Ecologists believe that the measure which aims to recognize the imperative reason of major interest (RIIPM) for renewable projects can undermine the protection of biodiversity. “It’s a simplification, it’s not about going back to the principle of protecting protected species”, tempers Arnaud Gossement.

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