The French Government’s decision to invest heavily in renewables has been met with enthusiasm by the solar and onshore wind sector, but representatives of the offshore wind sector say the government’s plan falls short.
Industry bodies active in the sector have gone so far as to call the announcement by President Macron earlier this week a “worst case scenario” for the industry and for regions of the country active in it. The President said France would phase out more than a dozen nuclear reactors, close coal-fired plants and invest heavily in solar power and onshore wind. The commitment to new offshore wind amounted only to four new tenders by the early 2020s, and 5.0 GW in total by 2028, an additional 2.2 GW compared to current plans. Industry was seeking a commitment to twice this level of offshore wind capacity.
With early bottom-fixed offshore wind projects endlessly delayed by permitting issues and a decision to reduce subsidies awarded to them, the industry had hoped to see significant investment in floating wind. In July 2018 a group of more than 70 companies and organisations called for France to commit to 3 GW of floating offshore wind energy in the Mediterranean alone by 2030. The massive potential of floating wind energy and its role in France was highlighted at a recent event in the south of France, at which delegates heard it could be on the cusp of commercial-scale development.
“The government has affirmed its ambition (for renewable energy) but proposes only a limited development of offshore wind power, both bottom-fixed and floating, in France in the coming years with, at best, 5 GW in service by 2028,” said a joint statement from France Energie Eolienne and other organisations with an interest in the sector.
“France has positioned itself as champion of the fight against climate change and has a strong and clear perspective on the development of renewable energy, but the reality of the commitment to offshore wind does not reflect this,” said the statement.
The signatories to the statement went on to say that industry and regions that have invested in offshore wind energy in the context of the energy transition see the small scale of the government’s commitment as “a disaster scenario” for the development of a sector of the maritime economy that is “competitive and promising” that “could create thousands of jobs.”
The regions of France highlighted in the statement include Brittany, Normandy, New Aquitaine, Occitanie, Pays de la Loire and the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regions, which it said had already undertaken initiatives necessary to support the development of the sector, in particular through investment and support for business.
The declaration also said the small size of the commitment to offshore wind in France would hinder efforts to compete in a fast-growing export market.
WindEurope chief executive Giles Dickson said France’s plans for onshore wind are quite promising, even if they could have been more ambitious. But they’ve got to urgently fix their short-term problem with permitting – they haven't awarded a single permit for an onshore windfarm this year because of an administrative problem.
“On offshore wind the numbers are disappointing. France has massive potential, both in traditional bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind. They could comfortably develop up to 11 GW by 2030. 2.2 GW is really unambitious and will leave France at the bottom of the class on offshore wind, missing out on jobs and investment. Let’s hope their National Energy and Climate Plan for the EU has a better number.”