ffrance wants to catch up on its deficit in the expansion of renewable energies. The National Assembly voted Tuesday night by a majority of 286 agree 238 dissenting votes approved the draft law “to accelerate the expansion of renewable energies”. The vote had to be repeated four times due to technical difficulties. There was a tumultuous protest from MPs whose electronic voting button was not working. Finally, ballot papers had to be organized in paper form.
The minority government under Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne was able to partially count on the support of the Socialists. In concrete terms, the law provides for the long approval procedures for the construction of solar and wind parks to be greatly shortened through new administrative regulations. In France, the process takes on average five years to build a solar farm, seven years to build a wind farm and ten years to build an offshore wind farm.
France’s share of renewable energy is lagging behind the targets agreed under the EU directive. Renewable energy accounted for 19.3 percent of gross final consumption in 2020, while 23.7 percent was earmarked. France continues to fall short of the path set out in its energy roadmap.
Penalties up to 40,000 euros
President Emmanuel Macron has set targets for 2050 to increase solar power capacity tenfold to more than 100 GW and expand 50 offshore wind farms to 40 GW. The text of the law provides for temporary changes to administrative procedures. The provision times should thus be significantly reduced. With a majority of 320 votes in favor and five votes against, the second chamber of parliament, the Senate, approved the text in the first reading. Ultimately, the right-wing majority in the Senate decided not to give the mayors the right to veto wind farms or solar parks. Nevertheless, the mayors are to be more closely involved in the projects than has been the case up to now. Municipalities can therefore themselves suggest areas that are suitable for projects. These “priority” funding areas should help ensure that the implementation phase runs as conflict-free as possible.
The draft law is also intended to facilitate the installation of photovoltaic systems along motorways. Outdoor parking spaces that are larger than 1500 square meters must be covered with shading photovoltaic systems in the future. The government initially provided for this obligation for outdoor parking spaces of 2500 square meters. The Greens called for the photovoltaic systems to be mandatory for areas of 500 square meters or more. Ultimately, they agreed on 1500 square meters. This also undermined a change by the right-wing majority in the Senate, which wanted to introduce photovoltaic roofing for outdoor parking spaces with more than 80 parking spaces. Borne’s minority government approved an amendment by the Left Party LFI, according to which car park operators would have to pay fines of 20,000 to 40,000 euros in the event of non-compliance.
22 kilometers distance
The draft law remains influenced by the widespread skepticism in France about the expansion of wind farms. The right-wing majority in the Senate wanted the state monument protection authority to give its approval if wind turbines were to be erected within sight of French cultural monuments. The minority government ultimately had to accept an amendment by former Environment Minister Delphine Batho to look into “visual saturation” from wind turbines.
In France, a tourist country, much more value is placed on landscape conservation than in Germany. “We have to preserve our natural landscapes. In some departments there has been a disorderly concentration of wind turbines,” said rapporteur Pierre Cazeneuve of the ruling Renaissance party.
Controversy also arose over the offshore wind farms. The Senate initially wanted to enforce that the plants must be at least 40 kilometers from the coast. The law now stipulates that offshore installations should primarily be “more than 22 kilometers” off the coast.