Science Gazette

MPs must accept the challenge and contribute to enhancing energy security under the French renewable energy law

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On the 10th of January, the National Assembly of France is scheduled to vote on a law that will speed up the development of projects involving renewable energy sources. However, there is a risk that some members of parliament would give in to the temptation to retain or add amendments that are not helpful to the text, which would cause the law to slow down the adoption of renewable energy sources rather than speed it up. It would be foolish for France to pass up this chance to boost the amount of renewable energy it produces on its own soil. It is necessary for it to do so in order to achieve its climate goals and improve its energy security.

France is the only member state of the European Union (EU) that has not met its renewable energy targets for the year 2020, as outlined in the EU’s renewable energy regulation. In the event that this obligatory objective is not met, France will be subject to a penalty of half a billion euros, in addition to paying between 6 and 9 billion euros annually on gas imports to make up for the gap. The key reason for France’s sluggish deployment of renewable energy sources and the country’s failure to meet its targets is the country’s lengthy and complicated permitting procedures. For example, it took ten years to make the first offshore wind farm in France, which is located at St. Nazaire, operational.

During the summer of 2013, the government of France responded to an urgent crisis by taking immediate action to help alleviate the situation in the short term. And in September, French President Emmanuel Macron introduced a new piece of legislation called the “Renewable Energy Acceleration Act” in an effort to speed up the deployment of renewable energy sources. The French Senate, which is the country’s upper house of parliament, made a number of revisions to the measure that were not particularly beneficial. Among these were the imposition of unduly high minimum distance from shore criteria for offshore wind farms and the granting of veto rights to mayors and the national heritage commission with regard to wind energy projects. If these measures had been implemented, wind energy development in France would have come to a complete halt. It is to everyone’s good fortune that they were eliminated from the final version of the text in both the Senate and again in the National Assembly, which is the lower chamber of the Parliament of France.

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The French Members of Parliament will vote on the final version of the law on January 10th. It is of the utmost importance that these revisions, which are not beneficial, not be returned into the final form. If these conditions were met, the “Renewable Energy Acceleration Act” would have the effect of stifling the growth of the renewable energy sector in France. It would take another 15 years to construct new nuclear power plants, which would have a significant negative impact on France’s energy security. France still gets two thirds of its energy from more expensive fossil fuels, thus this would have a significant negative impact. At point of fact, France is home to approximately 3.5 GW worth of wind energy projects that are waiting for the state’s approval in the last stage of the permitting process. This is the equivalent of three and a half nuclear reactors that could be erected within a matter of months, which would assist to reduce the pressure that is currently being placed on France’s electrical infrastructure. The Chief Policy Officer of WindEurope, Pierre Tardieu, stated that “this renewables law might be wonderful news for France’s energy security.” [Citation needed] Wind power can be rapidly implemented on a massive scale. Consequently, the passage of this bill would go a long way toward assisting France in preparing for the upcoming winter, which has a good chance of being more challenging than this winter. Members of Parliament bear a weighty obligation. It is not about picking fights with the other party; rather, it is about keeping the lights on while keeping the power bill down.

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