Énergies renouvelables : le gouvernement donne un coup de pouce salvateur à la filière

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On June 22, renewable energy professionals sounded the alarm. Sector players feared that many solar, wind, hydro and biogas projects would not see the light of day due to rising commodity prices and rising interest rates. They asked the government for emergency measures, without waiting for the summer to end. Good news: they have been heard. Last Thursday, the Ministry of Energy Transition released a battery of measures, which will be published in the Official Gazette in the coming days, to help this crucial sector for the country’s energy transition and security.

Producers of electrical renewable energy will thus be able to sell their electricity on the markets for 18 months, before the public support contract is activated. This measure aims to give them the opportunity to take advantage of the currently very high prices in the electricity market (currently close to 500 euros per megawatt hour by 2023, that is, an amount well above the price negotiated during the tenders) to absorb their costs. additional. . However, the 18-month period granted by the government is still less than the 24 months expected by the Union of Renewable Energies (SER).

Cushioning of high construction costs

For future smaller projects that benefit from a power purchase rate (known as an open window), the executive will allow the price of resold power to be indexed, so that it more reflects the increase in investment costs. Another long-awaited measure by professionals in the sector. The Government also plans to freeze the rate reduction for photovoltaic installations in buildings initially planned for the year 2022 and allow all renewable projects that have already won tenders to increase their power by up to +40% before completion. Finally, the biomethane production facilities will be able to benefit from additional time for their start-up.

Renewable energy professionals are particularly affected by the rise in the price of steel, used above all in hydraulic turbines, in tanks installed to house solar panels or in wind turbine masts. The sector is also affected by the increase in the price of concrete and silicon, whose manufacturing process requires a lot of energy. To this increase in the prices of raw materials is added the increase in the cost of transport, but also the increase in interest rates, which put pressure on the debt capacity of project promoters and force them to mobilize more capital.

“All this, as a whole, leads to an increase in Capex [les dépenses d’investissements, Ndlr] between 25% and 30%”, estimated, at the end of June, Alexandre Roesch, general delegate of the SER.

Essential projects for the coming winters…

According to government calculations, this inflationary context linked to the war in Ukraine threatens 6 to 7 gigawatts (GW) of solar projects and 5 to 6 GW of wind projects.

“These projects are essential to strengthen our energy independence as soon as possible and […] make a decisive contribution […] to the protection of our security of supply for the coming winters”, underlines the Ministry of Energy Transition, while Europeans prepare to spend the winter without Russian gas.

The war in Ukraine is causing serious energy tensions between Westerners and Moscow, which uses gas as a geopolitical weapon and makes its natural gas deliveries weaker and more uncertain, when they are not completely isolated like Poland, Bulgaria or Latvia from last. Saturday.

Gazprom cuts gas to Latvia

…and the weather

In this race against time to find alternatives to Russian gas, renewables have a big advantage. They are very fast to develop, especially photovoltaics, unlike other carbon-free solutions such as nuclear power plants, which require at least ten years to see the light of day.

Furthermore, in addition to contributing to the security of energy supply, these renewable energy projects allow the transition to a low-carbon economy to be accelerated, unlike other emergency solutions, such as the use of coal-fired power plants, many of which should play extra time in the Old Continent.

Soon an emergency law

These emergency regulatory measures are in addition to an emergency law that is currently being prepared and is expected for the next school year in order to structurally accelerate the deployment of renewable energy in France.

France, which is clearly behind in its national targets, is also the only one of the 27 Member States that has not reached the target set by a European directive. Thus, in 2020, the share of renewable energies in the country’s gross final energy consumption only reached 19%, compared to the expected 23%.

Must “have the honesty to admit we’ve fallen behind,” He himself recognized President Emmanuel Macron, during his trip to Belfort last February. Likewise, the Head of State has set the ambitious goal of multiplying installed photovoltaic solar power by ten by 2050 (that is, about 100 GW) and reaching 40 GW in offshore wind power (that is, the equivalent of more or less than 50 wind farms).

Full throttle on offshore wind power… not on land

With this in mind, the government has just selected two areas off the island of Oléron, for the establishment of two new parks, while the initial project announced by Jean Castex, in January 2021, only mentioned a single park. The two parks could thus represent a total capacity of approximately 2 GW, that is, the equivalent “from a plant with 2 reactors like Fessenheim”, welcomed the Ministry of Energy Transition. For the first park, whose public debate ended last February, commissioning is scheduled for the early 2030s.

Read our dossier on future wind farms off Oléron

On the other hand, the president has decided to put a stop to onshore wind power. It plans to double the capacity of onshore wind turbines by 2050, when the initial goal was to double capacity by 2030. These wind turbines, which are often heavily criticized, especially during periods of electoral campaigns, should nevertheless contribute almost 8,000 million euros to the State according to the calculations of the energy regulator.