The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

EU Concludes French Feed-in Tariffs for Wind Energy Permissible

In a potentially far-reaching decision, the European Commission has decided that the French system of feed-in tariffs for wind energy on land is not excluded under prohibitions against “state aid,” and is therefore permitted under European Union (EU) regulations.

The long-awaited decision couldn’t come at a better time. Though the decision is consistent with past EU rulings on feed-in tariffs, recent comments by the Commission’s Directorate General for Competition against feed-in tariffs (FITs) has signaled a return to FIT bashing by the Commission’s powerful bureaucrats. This had put the decision on French wind FITs in doubt.

The positive outcome in this case demonstrates that not only are feed-in tariffs for wind energy permissible, but — by extension — wind tariffs differentiated by wind turbine performance are also permissible.

France and Germany both use wind tariffs that are differentiated by wind resource intensity. Wind turbines in areas with low to moderate winds are paid more per kilowatt-hour than wind turbines in windy regions. Both countries use these differentiated tariffs to disperse wind development geographically. This not only spreads economic opportunity to all regions, but it also reduces land use conflicts when wind development is concentrated only in the most windy areas along the coast or on mountaintops.

The decision follows a European Court of Justice ruling in December of last year that the French system was state aid. Most forms of “state aid” are prohibited within the EU as inimical to free cross-border trade, the purpose of the Union.

The case had been brought by an anti-wind energy lobby group, Vent De Colère, in hopes of stopping the growth of wind energy in France. While the two decisions appear contradictory, they are internally consistent. The Court’s ruling was based on exemptions to certain industries from the surcharge (Contribution au Service Public de l'Electricité" or CSPE) on ratepayers used to pay for the feed-in tariffs. The Court ruled that the exemption from the CSPE to these industries was state aid.

The Court had previously ruled in the PreussenElektra case challenging Germany's original feed-in tariff, the Stromeinspeisungsgesetz, that the policy did not constitute prohibited state aid. (The former PreussenElektra now goes by the moniker E.ON.) The ruling has since been upheld in a similar challenge to Austria's feed-in tariffs.

The Court ruled in these cases that state aid is defined  in the treaty of union “as “advantages granted directly or indirectly through State resources.” They went on to explain that states can grant advantages as along as they are not from “State resources,” that is funds collected from taxpayers (or, presumably, not collected from taxpayers in the form of tax credits) and distributed by the state. (State aid from a state’s monetary resources meets the classic definition of a subsidy.) Requiring a utility to purchase renewable energy at a fixed-price set by the state is not the same as paying for the electricity from state resources, and is, therefore, not state aid, and is permissible.

Toby Couture, one of the world’s leading authorities on feed-in tariffs has written about the EU’s definition of state aid and where FITs fall in this verbal landscape in one of his Analytical Briefs. The Commission’s ruling is consistent with its previous decisions.

Though analysts, such as Couture, anticipated a decision in favor of the French wind tariffs, the legal uncertainty in France accomplished what Vent De Colère could not do legitimately: stop new wind projects from proceeding. The state aid case coupled with new discriminatory policies toward wind energy have cut the growth of French wind energy nearly in half from that in 2010. In the past two years, wind development in France has fallen behind Great Britain, one of Europe’s renewable energy laggards. In 2013, France installed only one-third as much wind energy as Britain.

Lead image: Wind turbines via Shutterstock

Untitled Document

Get All the Renewable Energy World News Delivered to Your Inbox - FREE!

Subscribe to Renewable Energy World Magazine and our award-winning e-Newsletter to stay up to date on current news and industry trends.

 Subscribe Now


US Senate Democrats Unveil Energy Bill That Restores PTC and Extends ITC

Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg Senate Democrats unveiled a bill that would provide more tax credits for renewable energy while killing some tax ince...

Sage Grouse Removed as Threat to Biggest Wind Farm in U.S.

Christopher Martin, Bloomberg Billionaire Phil Anschutz’s plans to build a $5 billion wind farm in southeast Wyoming will no longer be stymied by t...

CEO Gilles: Challenge in Geothermal is to 'Level Playing Field' with Wind, Solar

Jennifer Delony The current challenge for the geothermal energy industry is what U.S. Geothermal CEO Dennis Gilles calls “leveling th...

NRG Energy to Form Renewable Unit, Sell Wind Assets to Yieldco

Mark Chediak and Matthew Monks, Bloomberg NRG Energy Inc., the worst-performing member of the S&P 500 Utilities Index this year, said it will form a renewa...


Array Technologies Finalizes Shipments to E.ON’s Maricopa West Solar Project

Array Technologies, Inc. (ATI) has completed DuraTrack® HZ shipments to the 20 MW (ac) ...

B.C. Energy Minister to provide keynote at renewables for mines summit.

BC Minister of Energy and Mines to address the challenges of providing alternative powe...

Mining leaders seek renewables solutions at Toronto Summit

The global mining sector is facing a tough business environment with low commodity pric...

American Renewable Energy Institute Gears Up for 12th Annual Summit

"Racing Climate Change: Green Bridge with China, The Road to Paris” is the theme of th...


New Mexico Attracts Jobs and Revenues with Renewable Energy Tax Credit

New Mexico has abundant fossil fuel resources: in 2013, it ranked sixth in the nation for crude oil production, seven...

The Vice President Stole My Show (Not Really)

When I finished my Solar Power International (SPI) panel discussing what future opportunities the panelists saw in so...

The Value Of The Building

If you’re selling efficiency solutions in the built environment, you may find yourself being asked by your pros...

Sewage provides energy through processing

Many nations are investing in new technology to turn sewage waste into usable energy. Japan has recently revised its ...


Paul Gipe has written extensively about renewable energy for both the popular and trade press. He has also lectured widely on wind energy and how to minimize its impact on the environment and the communities of which it is a part. For his efforts,...


Volume 18, Issue 4


To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:


Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon



Doing Business in Europe – in partnership with GWEC, the Global Win...

There is now 128.8 GW of installed wind energy capacity in the EU (appro...

JuiceBox Energy Certified Installer Class

JuiceBox Energy is rapidly building out its national certified installer...

Wind Operator Congress Europe

The UK’s only business-focused O&M event for the European wind...


Clean Energy Patents Maintain High Levels in First Quarter, Solar L...

U.S. patents for Clean Energy technologies from the first quarter of 201...

Koch Professor drops his Koch title, still makes same errors plus s...

The Koch Professor’s title isn’t the only thing that’s...

Fact Check: AWEA represents American wind power

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is proud of its members for ...


Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now