Following the record pace of installations in 2016, support for the construction of wind farms in France is expected to continue unabated.

The wind energy business activity, which connected 1,560 Megawatts of capacity in France in 2016, an increase of over 45% from the previous year, could understandably have savoured its success and looked confidently to the future. But Benoit Pueyo, Business Unit Manager at Omexom Renewable Energy Wind (VINCI Energies), cautions that this result in fact reflects a stepped-up pace of construction in the run-up to a period of uncertainty in which the rules set by the European Commission are set to change.

There is some concern therefore that the momentum could flag. In July 2017, FEE, the wind energy trade association, recorded a 13% decline in the volume of wind turbine installations in the first half of 2017 compared to the same period in 2016.

Making room for market forces

Benoit Pueyo says that the one-off slowdown in response to the wait-and-see approach taken by operators should not call into question the pace of construction corresponding to the targets set by the French multi-year energy planning act (loi de programmation pluriannuelle de l’énergie), i.e. 15 gigawatts by the end of 2018 and 26 gigawatts in 2023, in the higher option.

« The aggregator market makes it possible to guarantee the market price, and the business model is thus very strong. »

In May 2016, the guaranteed wind power purchase price mechanism was phased out and replaced by a system that leaves more room for market forces. This was expected to bring down prices going forward, but might, it was feared, also result in a slowdown of rollouts.

In fact, the changeover from the wind energy support system to a supplementary remuneration system and the introduction of calls for tender for facilities with more than six turbines or turbines with more than 3 megawatt capacity are not expected to negatively impact the pace of construction, says Benoit Pueyo.

“We realised that the aggregator market made it possible to guarantee the market price, and that the business model was thus very strong,” says the Business Unit Manager of Omexom Renewable Energy Wind.

Less red tape, clear skies ahead

Furthermore, the energy transition law has curtailed administrative requirements. Producers are now only required to file a single request for authorisation to install wind turbines instead of a separate request for each administration.

This easing of the administrative procedures, says Benoit Pueyo, has removed the obstacles created by bodies such as the French met office and the civil aviation authority, which feared that wind turbines could interfere with their measuring instruments.

And last but not least, to round out the positive description given by the Omexom Renewable Energy Wind Business Unit Manager, the move to a single authorisation will also have the effect of limiting the number of appeals against wind turbine construction. These were perhaps the greatest factor slowing the pace of project construction, says the expert, pointing out that appeals are filed against one in every two projects, often on environmental grounds. Apart from this cloud, the wind energy sector appears to now have clear skies on the horizon and it should be possible, says Benoit Pueyo, to maintain a pace of construction of between 1 and 2 gigawatts per year, as set out in the French planning law.