France Adopts New Renewable Energy Bill

February 22, 2023

After a protected parliamentary debate, the French Parliament definitively adopted  on February 7, 2023 a new renewable energy bill (the “bill”) to “accelerate renewable energy production”.

The bill was presented by the Government on September 26, 2022.  In a bid to lower fossil fuel dependence, France is pursuing a dual track strategy by pushing renewable and nuclear energy (the latter representing 69% of the French energy mix).

The French Government announced its ambition to achieve by 2050 a tenfold expansion in solar energy output to exceed 100GW and to roll out fifty new offshore windfarms to reach 40GW. To do so, the bill includes provisions to cut red tape and speed-up permitting procedures in specific ‘acceleration zones’. Overall, administrative procedures for such projects take twice as long in France as in other EU Member States. While construction works may only typically last a few months, building a solar park usually takes up to five years.

Several measures specifically make it easier to deploy solar thermal and photovoltaic near roads, on the coastline. The bill makes it mandatory to install photovoltaic shades in outdoor car parks of more than 2,500 square meters—which in aggregate represent between 90–150 million square meters in France. The bill’s explanatory statement notes that using half of that space would amount to adding 7–11GW in power. The bill also simplifies permitting procedures for offshore windfarms to allow for a quicker rollout of electricity transmission infrastructure.

The bill contains horizontal measures to bolster the financing for renewable projects and increase value-sharing. Value sharing with local residents and authorities aims to boost local buy-in for renewable energy projects—as lack of local acceptability is a major cause for construction delays.  Article 17 of the bill aims at the creation of Power Purchase Agreements (“PPA”), i.e. direct sales contracts between producers and final consumers. Article 18 establishes a system where residents of renewable-energy-producing areas benefit from direct discounts on their energy bills.