bad student, France is going to catch up

Emmanuel Macron inaugurated this Thursday, in front of Saint-Nazaire, the first offshore wind farm in France, before the presentation, scheduled for Monday in the Council of Ministers, of a bill to accelerate renewable energies. A “good sign” for NGOs, but that remains to be confirmed.

He gave the impression of attending the skilful remediation of a bad student, on Thursday, September 22, in Saint-Nazaire. Inaugurating France’s first offshore wind farm, off the coast of Pouliguen and Croizic, Emmanuel Macron outlined his energy transition strategy, ensuring that France was on the right track, despite a significant lag in renewables.

“It is a pioneering project because it contains the answers to the challenges of the moment”, he declared about the offshore wind farm, but the President of the Republic warned: “We have to go at least twice as fast in renewable energy projects”. “.”We need a massive acceleration,” he added.

The strategy outlined by Emmanuel Macron, in line with his speech in Belfort last February, pursues three objectives: guarantee France’s energy sovereignty, decarbonize French energy and provide energy at affordable costs. To achieve this, the Head of State is committed to sobriety, with a 40% drop in energy consumption by 2050, and an increase, at the same time, in electricity production by 40% thanks to greater nuclear production, but also renewable energy.

Hence the will, expressed again this Thursday, to put the turbo on renewable energies (EnR) with the presentation to the Council of Ministers, on Monday, September 26, of a bill to accelerate renewable energies.

Because in this area, Paris is clearly a class fool. France is the only country in the European Union that has not met its targets regarding the share of renewable energies in their final energy consumption. This was only 19.1% in 2020 while the target was set at 23%, according to figures published last January by Eurostat, the European statistical office.

A French delay linked to “a very clear lack of political will”

For Emmanuel Macron and the government, these delays are mainly due to the French bureaucracy. Therefore, the bill that will come to Parliament in the autumn aims to remove these blocks.

Thus, between compliance with public law in terms of construction permits, compliance with environmental law, public consultations and the energy law, it now takes an average of ten years for an offshore site to come into service in France, against five in Germany, six in the United Kingdom. . For onshore wind, it is seven years, twice as long as in Spain or Germany, and photovoltaic is not much better with five years of procedure.

>> To read: Renewable energies: France wants to catch up with offshore wind energy

The bill aims to shorten the execution times of the projects thanks to transitory measures, for 48 months, to simplify the procedures (expansion of the public vote by electronic means), increase the possibilities of installing solar panels (in abandoned spaces of motorways , degraded soils, existing car parks in the form of shade structures, etc. or even pooling waterfront discussions for offshore wind power.

But if these blockades are very real, they do not explain all of France’s delays in renewable energy. “There has first been a very clear lack of political will in recent years with a government that has for a long time had a half-hearted discourse on renewable energy,” says Zélie Victor, energy transition manager within the NGO Climate Action Network. “Because the blockades also come from the lack of human and economic resources to process files at the level of communities or state services, he specifies. However, the fact of not having a clear framework has created difficulties of indecision among some actors.”

>> Read: Gas, electricity: what scenarios in France in case of energy shortage?

The prefectures, in particular, have considerably reduced the number of authorizations issued in the last three years, according to France wind power. A recent circular now asks the prefects to “facilitate the processing” of the files.

The National Council for the Ecological Transition (CNTE), intervened by Matignon in early August to issue an opinion on the bill, shares this analysis. Within his opinion published on September 8attributes France’s backwardness in renewable energy to several factors: “the absence of prior planning, including in terms of jobs and skills; the complexity of certain administrative procedures; the slowness and lack of anticipation of evaluations; successive changes in regulations; insufficient human resources and financial resources of the State and local authorities to investigate and monitor projects and support the structuring of certain renewable energy sectors”.

In addition, the CNTE “regrets the late implementation of legislative measures to speed up the deployment of renewable energy, given the time needed to enjoy its benefits.”

“A very good sign” for renewable energy

However, and although “it is the energy crisis that has just made the government aware”, according to Zélie Victor of Réseau Action Climat, the bill to accelerate renewable energies is “a very good sign” for renewable energies and “their role in responding to the climate and energy crisis.”

Contacted by AFP, France Énergie Éolienne considers that this text can ultimately contribute to installing renewable energies in the landscape, in particular by reducing the electricity bill for park residents, or planning offshore wind energy facing the sea, and not only locally, for a longer-term vision.

It will be necessary to see what the future law will contain when it is approved, in principle at the end of the year. Réseau Action Climat judges him “still unclear” and believes that he has several holes in his racket.

>> See: A slow energy transition: Has France fulfilled its COP21 commitments?

“The current text does not deal with all renewable energies, but essentially with offshore wind energy and photovoltaics, analyzes Zélie Victor. There are deficiencies in onshore wind energy. It will be developed more on rooftops. Therefore, we are waiting to see how will this bill be consolidated because as it stands, it does not live up to the ambitions on all issues.

To show her goodwill and gather as much as possible, the Prime Minister, Élisabeth Borne, took a step towards environmental associations on Wednesday, by withdrawing a controversial article from the text of the law. The article in question -article 3- wanted to raise the thresholds above which projects had to undergo an environmental impact study, with the aim of accelerating wind or solar installations. The NGOs considered that it was legally questionable because it would have represented a derogation from the principle of non-regression of environmental law, ratified by a 2016 law.

In addition, the “criteria that determine the future thresholds to trigger an environmental assessment (informed in the implementing decrees) do not allow estimating the scope of the project’s consequences on biodiversity,” warned the National Council for the Protection of Nature. (CNPN).

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