France suffers high dependency on nuclear power & promotes solar PV to achieve its 2030 renewable energy targets

News about extended outages at some nuclear reactors in France which have sent European power prices to records grabbed the headlines repeatedly over the past weeks. French energy markets regulator CRE proposed tighter rules under which alternative energy providers buy power from nuclear power station managed by state-controlled utility EDF. CRE aims thereby curbing potential speculation in the French power market after spot and forward electricity prices surged to record highs due to tight nuclear supply concerns in France. France could even impose power cuts this winter due to an electricity shortage, an unprecedented step in the wealthy nation which exposes the vulnerabilities of its dependence on nuclear power which is still a reality.

In fact, France still relies for three-quarters of its electricity on nuclear power, more than any other country. In the context of the Energy Transition Act [1] , implemented in July 2015, France set itself new ambitious energy targets which prospect a promising future for the renewable energy market. In July 2016, just one year later, France continued to materialize those targets and announced solar tenders to have 20 GW of solar power capacity installed by 2023. The tenders are expected to hit incremental goals of 10.2 GW by 2018 and between 18.2 to 20.2 GW by 2023. This means France may triple its solar PV capacity. It’s a pretty good time for France to get into the solar game, considering that solar power is now often cheaper than new power capacity from fossil fuels and nuclear, and offers grid and societal benefits.

France has now reviewed some details of its tender mechanisms (e.g. lifting the maximum capacity of a single project eligible to the program from 12 MW to 17 MW) and introduced a detailed timetable in order to incentivize and promote renewable energy deployment in the country over the next years. While 1 GW of tenders for ground-mounted PV plant will be issued annually for the next three years, other tenders announced aim to support France’s stuttering building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) sector, with the French government earmarking 450 MW of BIPV tenders over the coming three years, and another tender will be aimed solely at the country’s self-consumption sector, and last but not least an additional 50 MW tender for solar-and-storage has also been introduced for France’s overseas territories.

In September, the French government disclosed further details about its plans to launch a series of solar PV tenders to support an additional 3 GW of PV by 2020. The energy ministry will be in charge of overseeing a series of a total of six tender rounds of 500 MW each, beginning in 2017 with the aim to provide stability and visibility to the French solar industry through this steady and regular roll out of available projects.
The tenders will be available to ground-mounted PV systems between 500 kW and 17 MW in size. During each of the six rounds, 300 MW capacity will be reserved for solar farms larger than 5 MW, while 135 MW of capacity will be for plants with a capacity between 500 kW and 5 MW. The remaining 65 MW will be offered to developers looking to build PV systems on carports, provided they are sized between 500 kW and 10 MW. The first round of bidding ends on February 1, 2017.

The increasing adoption of PPA auctions and tenders is undoubtedly bringing more competition to the French renewables market. Industry experts expect that projects are now going to be more and more LCOE driven, i.e. EUR/MW driven. To be competitive and successful in the biddings, it will be necessary to count on best local and technical know-how in order to be able to optimise projects at each and every single phase and assure their optimal performance and long-term profitability.

[1] Further reading:


 Vector Cuatro started its business activities in France already back in 2012. Today the Firm counts on a considerable track record within the French market, with currently 155 MWp of third party solar PV and onshore wind power plants under management. The local team is composed of highly qualified native professionals with various engineering backgrounds and a proven experience in the renewable energy industry, who always aim to best respond specific needs of each of their clients, in accordance to local characteristics. Concerning the new evolvements within the renewable energy market in France, the professional team is available to render any kind of support to interested market players, in terms of legal, technical and financial assessment, for already operating green power plants in terms of production forecasts or maintenance information, but also for any new solar PV or wind power plants during the bidding processes as well as their subsequent construction, selling, financing and operation phases.

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