France prioritises renewables with sweeping new energy legislation

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New energy bill aims to provide a major boost to renewables as government proposes nuclear power cap.

The French government has revealed sweeping new plans to boost the country's renewable energy sector and drive investment in efficiency measures, as part of a flagship energy bill unveiled last week.

The wide-ranging new legislation proposes to increase renewables share of the energy mix to 32 per cent by 2030, while doubling renewables share of the electricity mix to 40 per cent.

If approved the legislation would also provide drivers of diesel vehicles incentives worth up to €10,000 to switch to electric vehicles and would streamline onerous planning regulations for new renewables projects.

"It's not normal that it takes eight years to build an offshore wind farm in France, and two and a half years in other countries," Energy Minister Segolene Royal told reporters.

France has lagged behind some of its neighbours in its adoption of wind and solar power, and is currently expected to fall short of its EU target to source 23 per cent of its energy from renewables by 2020.

However, the government is keen to accelerate the rollout of renewables through the 2020s after President Francois Hollande pledged to cut nuclear's share of the energy mix to 50 per cent, and the country is part of a group of nations calling on the EU to adopt a target to cut emissions 40 per cent by 2030.

The new bill also promises significant progress on energy efficiency, proposing a tax credit worth 30 per cent of the cost of insulation to households that undertake improvements between this September and the end of 2015.

The French government is keen to polish its green credentials ahead of its hosting of the crucial UN climate summit in Paris in late 2015.

The legislation also proposes capping France's nuclear capacity at the current level of 63.2GW, meaning state operator EDF would have to shut some of its existing capacity when the new Flamanville reactor comes online.

Royal said the government had no intention of "exiting" nuclear power, praising the technology for providing a low carbon energy base from which it could make an effective transition towards renewables.

She added that the renewed focus on renewables and energy efficiency would help curb France's energy import bills and deliver net economic benefits to the country. "It's an opportunity to cut the country's energy bill but also to reduce energy bills for all French people," she told reporters.

SOURCE: Business Green, June 23rd 2014: