French government says “non” to the solar industry

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Environmental lawyer Arnaud Gossement represents applicants petitioning against the establishment of a moratorium suspending the mandatory purchase of solar power by facilities producing over 3kWp.

Gossement has argued that the decree the French government passed at the end of last year to suspend the obligatory purchase of solar power is illegal. PV industry specialists drew up a petition to fight this decision which resulted in the Council of State establishing a moratorium to suspend a final decision being made. Interested parties were allowed three months to discuss the legalities of the decree. They hoped to tackle issues surrounding sustainable growth in the French PV industry and to create a new framework for the implementation of regulations

Gossement has been very vocal in his denouncement of the government, who he believes lacks a clear and precise vision of the future of French solar energy policy and is holding back the industry from accomplishing its goals.

However, on November 16, the French Council of State said “non” to the solar industry and is continuing with the decree that came into force on March 10, 2011.

The new framework for obligatory purchase of solar power has been defined as:

  1. “Attractive” purchase tariff only for facilities with a power of up to 100kW (added to the powers of current or completed projects on the same building or cadastral parcel). For facilities in excess of 100kWp, the purchase tariff was set at €0.12/kWh, but with an additional procedure for calls for projects due to be introduced during 2011, to benefit from a rate in excess of €0.12/kWh;
  2. The purchase tariffs are set according to the building type, integration type, and facility power (added to the power of other current or completed projects in the same building or cadastral parcel);
  3. Depending on the volume of projects with connection requests during a given quarter, and for each segment (residential building integration, non-residential building integration, simplified building integration for any building type), the purchase tariff in the following quarter may be reduced by up to 9.5%;
  4. A certificate of financial capacity is mandatory for any project above 9kWp;
  5. The integration criteria have not really changed from the previous decree (08/31/2010), but they make provision for building facilities where the height of the photovoltaic system plan exceeds the surrounding roofing components plan by no more than 60mm. This limit will change to 20mm from 01/01/12.

This means that the purchase tariff is revised downwards and the eligibility conditions are made more stringent. However, this in no way changes the administrative obstacles which already exist.

With energy being a key topic for next year's presidential elections, it is hoped solar power will play a small part in the discussions. The Socialist and Green parties are leading the way demanding for a reduction in France's reliance upon nuclear power. Gossement agreed, “The challenge for our present-day policies is to talk about the future – and indeed our present – namely renewable energy and the savings that can be made as a result.”

France is the world's most nuclear-dependent country and operates 58 nuclear reactors. However, utilities' groups argue that curbing nuclear power in France could cost tens of billions of euros.

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