French government to launch 1GW offshore wind energy tender

The French government will launch an offshore wind tender worth around 1GW by the end of the year, Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault revealed at the weekend. He made the announcement during a government-hosted conference on the environment at which he and President Francois Hollande promised a plan to kick-start the renewables industry in France.

The previous government under the leadership of Nicholas Sarkozy awarded tenders to build offshore wind farms to produce 2 GW of energy in April, and this new tender is being seen as the second part of the initial offer. A full second round should be launched next year. The French wind energy association said the announcement was “good news”, but called for the government to “rapidly envisage a third tender for 3 GW” if the country were to meet its objectives of producing 6 GW from offshore wind turbines by 2020.

The association also welcomed other measures announced by the government at the conference such as its promise to simplify the administrative procedures governing the wind and photovoltaic sectors, to introduce a stable legal framework for renewable energy industries and to support innovation in the field. These measures would “give a breath of oxygen to the French wind industry,” it said.

However, it rued the government’s lack of action on the decision by France’s highest administrative court to ask the European Court of Justice (ECJ) whether the country’s premium purchase price for onshore wind constituted state aid. A positive resolution of this issue was “the first urgent measure to adopt,” said the association, warning that the sector was “currently at a standstill because of the Damocles sword of the possibility of losing this premium” hanging over it. “One thousand jobs are directly threatened,” it said. Moreover, the industry warned that without a solution to this problem “the hopes generated [during the conference] in terms of green growth will fail to materialise”.

During the conference, President Hollande also called for deeper cuts in EU carbon dioxide emissions, recommending a 40% percent cut in CO2 emissions by 2030 and a 60% reduction by 2040. The EU’s current target is to cut emissions by 20% below 1990 levels by 2020. He also confirmed his campaign pledge to slash the share of nuclear power in the country’s energy mix to 50% by 2025 from 75% at present.

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