French Wind Sector Fears It Will Be Blown Away
Author: Muriel Boselli
Vehicles run on A23 motorway near Aumale between Amiens and Rouen, after heavy snowfall in northern France, December 20, 2009.
Photo: Pascal Rossignol
France could see its nascent wind power sector blown off its feet if amendments to a recent French green law are voted, the renewable energy sector body said.
A parliamentary debate on a series of amendments to a French green law voted in 2008 starts on Tuesday after an enthusiastic environmental debate took place in the wake of the French presidential election.
But a parliamentary group led by Patrick Ollier, a leading figure of the center right UMP party, has lobbied hard to combat the law as it stands in a bid to cut down the plan that aims to substantially boost the number of wind turbines in France.
The law aims for terrestrial wind energy to reach 19,000 megawatts (MW) by 2020, equivalent to Germany's, up from 4,500 MW now. It also lays the ground to build from scratch 6,000 MW in offshore wind capacity.
"Those amendments are a disaster... I am categorical that we not will reach the 19,000 MW if they are voted," Andre Antolini, head of the Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables SER, told Reuters in a telephone interview.
He said if the amendments were voted, then the projects in the pipeline, worth a capacity of around 3,000 MW, would be built and then the industry would stop growing.
An average wind turbine has a power capacity of around 2 MW while a nuclear reactor has a capacity of 1,000 MW.
France, which lags its European neighbors, has set even higher targets than the European Commission, calling for 23 percent of renewable sources in its energy mix by 2020, above the EU's objective of 20 percent.
The amendments are borne out of growing political opposition to wind power with some politicians arguing turbines are blighting the French landscape, that the sector is helped by questionable fiscal and financial rules, and that the technology is not the answer to global warming.
France's former president Valery Giscard d'Estaing, who championed France's dependence on nuclear power, is one of the country's most vocal opponents to wind energy.
Classifying wind farms in the same category as dirty industries such as refineries, banning wind farms smaller than 15 MW, and creating regional zones where turbines are allowed, are the main amendments set to hurt the industry, Antolini said.
"You have to admit that everything is a bit topsy-turvy when you hear that they want to put in the same category wind turbines and chemical plants," he said.
Antoloni added that he did not exclude his body would appeal the amendments at the European court of justice.
"I am convinced that this is not in accordance with the European directive," he said.
(Editing by Marie Maitre)