France Doubles Solar Energy Target, Seeks to Promote European Equipment

France has doubled its target for new solar projects to at least 1,000 megawatts in 2013, helping spur use of European equipment, Energy Minister Delphine Batho said.

“The measures are aimed at restarting the solar sector in France,” Batho said in a statement. They will encourage manufacturing and seek to cut an industry trade deficit that grew to 1.35 billion euros ($1.8 billion) in 2011, she said.

The policies will also generate 2 billion euros in investment and create or safeguard 10,000 jobs, Batho said.

France, like the U.K. and Germany, has scaled back support for renewable energy after incentives led to runaway expansion, equipment costs fell and economic stagnation curbed financing. France capped new installations in 2011 under former President Nicolas Sarkozy, while his successor Francois Hollande vowed to boost renewables and cut the nation’s reliance on nuclear power.

Under today’s plan, France will start a tender this month for 400 megawatts of solar power from large-scale roof or ground installations. Half of those will have to use “innovative technology” and winners will be announced by March 2014.

The target for home installations measuring less than 1,000 square meters will be doubled to 400 megawatts. The preferential feed-in tariffs for energy generated from the projects will be 10 percent higher when they use equipment made in Europe.

Ecological Patriotism

France is pushing “ecological patriotism” to help make its solar energy competitive and create jobs, Batho said. She cited a European Commission probe into whether Chinese producers sell solar panels below cost, and a U.S. decision to impose duties on cells imported from China. The annual cost of France’s measures will be 90 million to 170 million euros, Batho said.

The minister last month announced an increase in the so- called CSPE tax that pays for renewable and other energy subsidies. The regulator has said the new level won’t allow Electricite de France SA, the state-run power provider, to meet its costs, leaving a shortfall of 2 billion euros this year.

France had about 4,000 megawatts of installed solar capacity connected to the grid at the end of September, up from 2,950 megawatts at the end of 2011, according to the statement.

The financing of renewable energy subsidies will be part of a government-led policy debate on energy in coming months.

Copyright 2013 Bloomberg

Lead image: France map flag via Shutterstock

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