France pushes forward with law to accelerate renewables


French MPs on Tuesday moved ahead with a law to speed up the deployment of renewable energy, as the country’s nuclear plants were hit by maintenance and corrosion problems and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused energy costs to surge.

Having secured rare support from the left, President Emmanuel Macron’s minority administration moves a step closer to lowering obstacles to build new solar and wind plants, including massive offshore wind farms.

Currently, only 19.3% of France’s energy consumption is sourced from renewables, short of the 23% objective Macron’s government set in 2020.

Macron has set a target of building 50 offshore plants by 2050, up from one today, to generate 40 GW of electricity. He also wants to multiply solar capacity by 10, to top 100 GW.

The bill provides for a territorial planning to accelerate the deployment of renewable energies. If passed by the Assembly, it will be up to the municipalities to identify and then submit a list of land that could be used for renewable energy projects, which, once decided, these zones will have to be registered in the local urban planning documents.

Taking part in the bill’s first reading with paper slips, 286 MPs backed the draft law with 238 against.

Tuesday’s draft law will now be subject to compromise talks between MPs and senators -- with the upper chamber fiercely defensive of mayors’ rights to have a say in local projects.

In an initial compromise with the Senate, the government has agreed to allow mayors to define “acceleration zones” where renewables can be built more easily.

But the left fears that too many concessions could let local officials reject projects.

With no majority in parliament, the government wooed the Greens and Socialists in advance of Tuesday’s vote to move the bill closer to becoming law. They secured an abstention from the ecologists and reluctant backing from the centre-left to get over the line.

“Sometimes you have to cooperate in the name of the public interest and the environmental crisis,” Socialist MP Dominique Potier said, hailing “major advances” from his party’s amendments.

Meanwhile Greens chief Marine Tondelier said “this isn’t a definitive abstention” but “we’re expecting better” from the final bill.

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