The French renewable energy policy

Renewable energy policy in France.

Renewable energies have an essential place in the strategy with regard to climate change with the control of energy, nuclear power and capture / sequestration. The ambition of the 4 or 5 targets to reduce 2050 emissions, which are included in the French sustainable development strategy, involves mobilizing all possible sources and developing energy. The Minister of Ecology and Sustainable Development Serge Lepeltier has made climate change one of his priorities. The Kyoto Protocol and its commitments is, in fact, only a necessary step, but far from sufficient.
France is pleased that Tony Blair has put the climate issue on the G8 agenda. Our country can only support its approach which makes technological innovation play an essential role. President Jacques Chirac has affirmed his wish that the G8 summit at Gleneagles will make it possible to re-engage the United States on this subject which is vital for the future of our planet and that we know how to show imagination to convince, in particular by technology transfers, emerging countries to make sustainable energy choices that will fight against global warming without hampering economic growth.

The context of sustainable development implies minimizing the economic and social costs of changes in production and consumption patterns that are necessary to reduce our emissions.

There are two main ways to reduce these costs:
- technology that allows for a more efficient result at a lower cost
- the search for economic and employment opportunities, new services and new products.
The exchange day focused on renewable energies. Before drawing operational conclusions, you will allow me to put into perspective some of the issues identified during this work.

Renewable energies have characteristics that differentiate them from conventional energies: they are diffuse and intermittent. In fact the use of energy requires to answer 3 questions where? when? and how ? The oil industry easily answered these questions of transport, storage and flexibility of use. This period is over.

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Answering these questions requires a finer integration of the ENRs into the consumption systems. They are as much on the side of the management of the demand as that of the offer.

How to build positive energy buildings without integrating the insulation, storage and mobilization systems of the contributions, that is to say solar collectors? For the renewable energies of networks (wind, tidal ...) these questions nonetheless arise to a lesser degree.

The small size of the installations also poses transaction problems between all the actors that are necessary for their implementation. Decisions in a centralized energy system are easier than in a decentralized system. We are now aware of these difficulties in the deployment of wind power in France.

The significant development of renewable energies therefore poses new problems by their very nature. But it also raises the problem of innovation. In fact, most of the time, it is about new technologies, in childhood, that must be brought out.

Two driving forces of innovation are, in general, opposed push and pull, (we do not use the terms push and pull in French). Push technologies are pushed by public offer and state planning of research and deployment, this was the case of nuclear power in France. The pull approach relies on demand and the market and relies more on the private sector.

The hybrid side of renewable energy, which I mentioned earlier, is also here. That's the whole problem of their governance. The public power is not in a position to do it itself, but it seeks to stimulate the private sector, and various actors, by mobilizing new tools, market tools. It is necessary to develop an economic approach ensuring the profitability of the companies, but also the intervention of various trades, of a more complex chain of decision including processes of local acceptance.
We are right in the mechanism described by the sociology of innovation. who considers that the success of an innovation depends more on the construction of a "convergent technical-economic network" than on mere technical performance or rational planning.

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These few reflections a little theoretical, lead us to ask the following questions:

- Who are the actors whose intervention is necessary for the deployment of renewable energies?
- What new skills do they need to master?
- What mechanisms ensure their joint intervention and technical and economic transactions?
The instruments that we country implement are thus closer to the market, but none are without weakness:
- The call for tenders procedures appear complex for these areas which are still very evolving, and hardly take into account certain qualitative criteria.
- Preferential feed-in tariffs create an income for the first entrants and risk being a weak incentive for innovation.
- ENR certificates have fluctuating certificate prices and therefore induce economic risks for the entrepreneur.

The instruments, whatever they are, when they apply uniformly, favor the most advanced techniques, but it does not necessarily facilitate those which will be most useful in the future; the risk of technological foreclosure is not absent.

The question of R&D is central since most sectors are not yet profitable and therefore still require R&D.

Are we sure that some sectors are not satisfied with rents acquired because of the proposed mechanisms?
Are we sure that all approaches are well explored and evaluated?
The answer is obviously not for ocean energy, photovoltaics and biomass.
But, is not this also the case for wind energy, which nevertheless appears as a mature technology? Are not other concepts that are deployed equally, or even more promising?
How to promote the most promising technologies in the long term?
The key is to set up deployment instruments that are therefore favorable to R&D and the diffusion of innovations.

Some new instruments are proposed in this direction: A venture capital fund in the United Kingdom.

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The “Agency for the promotion of industrial innovation” in France which will position itself on subjects such as clean cars, fuel cells and biotechnologies. This body will bring together researchers and manufacturers who will jointly define the programs.
These approaches are probably related to our respective cultures, but we have a lot to learn from each other? We obviously agree to identify the same needs: a private / public alliance and an international reasoning.

It is also a bit like this after Kyoto: doing R&D in partnership, cooperating both upstream on technologies and downstream on transfers and dissemination.

We can identify cooperation themes such as marine energies or energy efficiency by putting in place new processes for forum between private and public, between France and the United Kingdom, so as to identify a common vision and methodology. The idea is therefore to mobilize companies, countries, NGOs and local communities.

But working bilaterally does not exclude the multilateral. Some international organizations are critical, such as the International Energy Agency or the Framework Convention on Climate Change and Clean Development Mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol.

Source: Concluding statement by Christian Brodhag, the Interministerial Delegate for Sustainable Development, at the 12 Jan.-2005 French-UK Seminar on Renewable Energies

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