Wind power in France: is Germany the model to follow?
In France, between 6 and 8 years are needed in order to develop a wind farm project, while between 2 and 4 years are needed in Germany. Therefore, what could be the possible reasons explaining this situation in France, whose wind energy sector development is “lagging behind”, and which solutions exist to solve this problem?
In 2017, France counted 6600 wind turbines (12 Gigawatts), while Germany had installed 27270 wind turbines (50 Gigawatts). This observation is even more striking if we consider offshore wind turbines, with 4108 Megawatts of offshore wind turbines installed in Germany while no wind turbine produces electricity near the French coasts. And this is the case despite the fact that France has the second wind power potential in Europe.
Then, which are the major factors that could have led to such important differences between France and Germany, and which solutions could be implemented in order to solve those problems? It turns out that these are mainly due to the impact of national law on the one hand and the local social acceptability of projects on the other hand.
The national right
First of all, it is the national right which can be an obstacle (or on the contrary, as in Germany, a help) for the development of the wind energy. In France, the strict (and at the same time very unstable) legal framework can be considered as a burden for the creation of new wind power projects. The complexity and the length of the French administrative procedures also contribute to the fact that wind power projects are particularly difficult to carry out.
Then, could Germany be an example to be followed by France? It turns out that Germany has some advantages to attract wind power project developers, such as certain planning documents and a privileged administrative regime that have been created in order to permit the development of wind power. The German model has largely inspired France: this led to some reforms in order to simplify the French legal framework (and to others reforms that are still under discussion today in order to facilitate the expansion of wind power).
The local social acceptability
Secondly, it is the local social acceptability of a wind energy project that can be considered as an obstacle to the development of wind energy, as demonstrated by the huge number of legal actions taken against wind power projects, particularly in France. As a consequence, solutions have been implemented (among other things) in order to avoid improper claims, in France as well as in Germany.
It also turned out that involving the citizen in the project is particularly effective in order to avoid those legal actions taken against wind farms projects. As a result, a social, financial and organizational innovation which is the citizen involvement in the financing phase of the wind power project has appeared in Germany (and later in France). In fact, a lot of energy cooperatives have been created by citizens in Germany, leading to a better acceptance of wind energy projects and less legal actions against projects.
This new mean will be maybe the future solution to ensure the positive acceptance of wind power projects by the population, and thus lead to a significant time saving for wind farm developers.