April 14. 2024. 6:48

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French lawmakers rubber-stamp Renewable Acceleration Law

French Senators on Tuesday (7 February) gave their final approval to the Renewable Energy Acceleration Bill, marking another step in France’s attempt to catch up with its failed 2020 target on renewables.

Following last week’s vote of approval in the National Assembly, Senate lawmakers followed suit on Tuesday with 300 votes in favour, 13 against, and 30 abstentions.

By simplifying and streamlining procedures for the approval of renewable energy projects, France will be able to “remove all the obstacles that delay the deployment of renewable energies,” said Energy Transition Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher.

The aim is to achieve the EU’s future renewable development objectives, said Pannier-Runacher. Indeed, France is “the only European country that has not reached its objectives” agreed for 2020, she added.

During the debates, Senators insisted on this issue and on the need to guarantee the country’s energy sovereignty.

French MPs approve renewable acceleration bill, despite opposition

The French National Assembly adopted a bill to accelerate the development of renewable energies on Tuesday (31 January), despite abstention from the Greens and opposition from the hard left, who denounced shortcomings and inconsistencies in the new law.

Opposition from Communist and Green ranks

While Senators approved the bill with an overwhelming majority, some points of contention did come up in the debate.

The text “puts the cart before the horse,” said Hervé Gillé, rapporteur for the Socialist Group, told fellow senators. The “planning process is not sufficiently complete” and “remains in a political rather than strategic limbo” he added.

On the side of the Communists, who abstained, Senator Fabien Gay called the text “political communication”.

“France wants to double its renewable capacities, but there is nothing on financing, the revival of the sectors, training and the situation of workers,” he told EURACTIV France. “Not to mention that we are not talking about the main problem, which is the deregulation of the energy market,” he added.

Like his left-wing and ecologist colleagues, Gay also questions the new law for the wide-ranging powers it gives mayors with regard to planning the development of renewable energies, like deciding the zones where intensive renewable projects can be located.

Green and Communist lawmakers are worried this could expose mayors to pressure from project developers, as well as opposition from local residents.

But according to Sophie Primas, the rapporteur of the conservative Les républicains group with a Senate majority, including mayors at such a high level of decision-making is a key achievement of this text.

“The Senate has made its mark by territorialising the project and putting local elected representatives at the heart of this national strategy,” she said ahead of the vote.

Still, for most Senators, the adopted law remains a “balanced” text.

“With this law, France will do better”, said Nadège Havet, rapporteur for the group affiliated with the presidential party (RDPI).

Waiting for EU targets

It’s unclear when the law will come into force, but its first effects will only be felt in 2024, when authorities will receive a map of the zones that are to benefit from renewable acceleration measures.

With its new law, France is thus preparing to reach the yet-to-be-decided EU renewable energy targets for 2030 – a 40% or 45% share of renewables in the EU’s overall energy mix, depending on how the Renewable Energy Directive is revisited.

For the time being, France is leaning towards a 40% target but may swing to 45% in line with proposals from the European Commission and supported by the European Parliament if the 5% gap is weighted according to the carbon intensity of member states’ electricity mix.

Key French MEP pitches low-carbon ‘weighting’ for EU renewables target

France could back an EU-wide target of 45% for renewable energies if the objectives assigned to each member state are weighted according to the carbon intensity of their electricity mix, according to Pascal Canfin, the chairman of the European Parliament’s environment committee.

Pascal Canfin, French MEP for the centrist Renew group and chairman of the European Parliament’s Environment Committee, made this proposal on 16 January, confirming he would present it during upcoming negotiations on the Renewable Energy Directive.

Pannier-Runacher’s office intends to “build on this proposal” which it considers “interesting, intelligent and common sense,” she acknowledged at a press briefing on 2 February.

But others are not convinced. It is a way “to get rid of the necessary effort towards renewables,” said Maxime Laisney of the leftist La France Insoumise party, during a debate preceding the vote on 31 January.

EU negotiations on the Renewable Energy Directive’s targets are currently at a standstill due to a standoff over the definition of green hydrogen.

France is waiting for the EU-wide target to be set so that it can define its own strategy to achieve the targets as part of its future multiannual energy programme, to be discussed from June.

Many senators and deputies criticised the fact that the bill setting out the multiannual strategy will only be debated and voted on after the law is adopted.

Hydrogen standoff brings EU renewables law to screeching halt

The lawmaker in charge of steering negotiations on the EU’s revised renewable energy directive has cancelled an upcoming round of talks, laying the blame on the European Commission for failing to present a key piece of related hydrogen legislation.