France confirms COVID-19 solar reprieve amid flurry of auction results

The government’s decision to split rather than fully postpone the 1GW ground-mount solar tender on 3 July – scheduling one-third for that month and the remainder for November – had been a proposal by French PV operators, who were keen to retain some activity in the short term. Image: Q CELLS

The French government has formally moved to help green energy developers against the COVID-19 crisis, easing auction rules as it awarded hundreds of new tender contracts.

Meeting industry representatives online, French Environment minister Elisabeth Borne confirmed on Wednesday the country will grant deadline delays to auction-backed projects and freeze tariff drops for small rooftop PV systems, in a bid to mitigate the effects of the pandemic.

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The yet-to-be-defined deadline deferments – they will be set on a technology-by-technology basis, minister Borne said – were announced as France unveiled in one go the results of six renewable tenders, with a 2.6TWh fleet of 288 project winners bagging contracts across all six.

At five of all six exercises, the solar auctions (see table below for full results) distributed support to segments including ground-mounted; self-consumption; a scheme to repower an old nuclear site with PV; innovative schemes including agri-solar systems; and projects in overseas territories.

France, Borne said, had decided to assist renewable projects after noting the spreading COVID-19 impacts. “The progress of many … projects is currently disrupted, which is why I decided to grant additional delays for the sites under construction and for the next calls for tenders,” she said.

“The health crisis we are going through must not in any way make us give up the ambitious objectives in terms of development of renewable energies in the multi-annual programming,” Borne added. “The nearly 300 winning projects designated today are tangible proof of this mobilisation.”

The new 288 winners of France’s COVID-era green energy auctions

Technology Number of winning projects Total capacity awarded Average tariffs
Ground-mount solar 88 projects 649MWp €62.11 / MWh
Solar repowering of old nuclear site 12 projects 94.2MWp €55.78-98.5 / MWh
Innovative solar 39 projects 104MWp €82.8 / MWh
Self-consumption solar 30 projects 11.8MWp €15.97 / MWh
Solar on Corsica and overseas territories 84 projects 101.7MWp €44.1-108.2 / MWh
Onshore wind 35 projects 749.3MW €62.9 / MWh
Source: French Environment Ministry

Calls for red-tape trimming to deliver PV ambitions of 44.5GW

Like fellow major European economies Italy, Germany, the UK and Spain, France is currently amongst the countries worst affected by COVID-19 worldwide, with 57,763 confirmed cases so far.

The crisis comes as France works to deliver an installed PV boom between 2019 (9.43GW) and 2028 (35.6 – 44.5GW). As PV Tech already anticipated last Wednesday, the Ministry confirmed this week that upcoming solar tenders will be delayed to create some breathing space.

The government’s decision to split rather than fully postpone the 1GW ground-mount solar tender on 3 July – scheduling one-third for that month and the remainder for November – had been a proposal by French PV operators, who were keen to retain some activity in the short term.

“We told them it was critical to maintain as much of the tenders as possible because the deadlines create a very positive tension with the sector at this time,” Xavier Daval, CEO of SER-SOLER, recently told PV Tech. “We asked if we could maintain something for July … and the Ministry accepted.” 

Interviewed by this publication, Daval said the onset of the COVID-19 crisis is being felt across French operators. Current challenges, he said, include the struggle to use the services of notaries online and to find architects able to work on project blueprints whilst away from the office.

Daval described the government’s response as “very supportive” but urged the state to go further, and slash permitting red-tape. The industry was used to administrative bottlenecks but they could become “unacceptable” at a time France has to restart its renewable market, he said.

Credit for story image on PV Tech's homepage: Jeanne Menjoulet / Flickr.

The prospects and challenges of solar's new era in France and the rest of Europe will take centre stage at Large Scale Solar Europe 2020 (Lisbon, on 30 June-1 July 2020).

This publication has also set up a tracker to map out how the COVID-19 pandemic is disrupting solar supply chains worldwide. You can read the latest updates here.

If you have a COVID-19 statement to share or a story on how the pandemic is disrupting a solar business anywhere in the world, do get in touch at [email protected] or [email protected].

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