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France

Supporting Policies for Ocean Energy



NATIONAL STRATEGY

In France, the Energy Act (Loi de Transition Energétique pour la Croissance Verte), adopted in August 2015, defines an aim of 40% renewable energy in the electricity mix by 2030. The application decree called “Pluri-annual Energy Policy”, which sets 10-year targets for installed capacity for all types of energy used in electricity production, was updated in 2020. Separate but comparable documents are defined for the mainland as well as overseas regions and territories. In the present document, distinct and ambitious figures of installed capacities and timing for calls for tenders are given for both bottom-fixed and floating offshore wind energy. However, for ocean energies, objectives remain limited to the availability of public incentives for prototypes and pilot farms of converters until the LCOE of these technologies is demonstrated to be commercially competitive with respect to other renewable sources of energy.
 
Since July 2020, France, after a prolonged absence, is once again benefitting from a dedicated Ocean Ministry which is in charge of a planning guideline called the Strategic Seaboard Document (DSF). Although the policies, permitting and incentives for offshore energies depend on the Ministry of Ecological Transition, the new Ocean Ministry provides a good impetus to their deployment by prioritizing a fair and efficient marine spatial planning, as well as promoting an enlightened public debate in the consenting process involving fisheries and other stakeholders. As a reminder, a set of laws and decrees in recent years have been enacted supporting offshore renewable energies by simplifying their deployment, namely:

  • most of the legal obligations (preliminary technical studies, initial environmental assessment, public participation) are performed upstream of the actual permit issuance, thereby considerably reducing the risk for project developers;
  • this process is secured as long as the technical details of the project do not diverge from the initial plan. An “envelope permit” is issued allowing for technological flexibility if developers have provided an impact assessment based on the worst-case scenario;
  • for commercial farms, the cost of the export cable is to be supported by the French Transmission System Operator, which also shoulders more legal and financial responsibilities with respect to the availability of electricity exportation.

MARKET INCENTIVES

Although an incentive programme had awarded 2 demonstration pilot farms of tidal energy converters with partial support, allowing these projects to benefit from a feed-in tariff (173 €/MWh), grants and reimbursable loans, both projects are still on hold in the Alderney Race. This demonstrates that the initial support scheme was not considered supportive enough for the developers. However, new consortia are lining up for demonstrations in the Alderney Race, with HydroQuest and SIMEC as turbine manufacturers.
 
Also, in compliance with EU regulations on competitiveness, in the case of a call for tenders at a commercial scale, as is potentially foreseen for two high-energy tidal zones which have already been identified (Alderney Race and the Fromveur Strait in Brittany), a major part of the selection criteria will rely on the assessed electricity price per MWh. However, the present LCOE of tidal energy is considered too high to enable such a call, and present projects are supported by regional and European funds.
 

PUBLIC FUNDING PROGRAMMES

The “Investment for the Future” program managed by the Prime Minister and, on energy topics, by the Ministry for the Ecological and Solidary Transition, is the major provider of the above mentioned incentives through grants and loans, with the selective help of three main agencies, depending on the TRL of the project (from higher to lower): Public Investment Bank (BPI), Environment and Energy Agency (ADEME), National Research Agency (ANR). Regional local authorities also provide substantial support for prototypes and pilot projects. Since 2020, a labelling process involves the maritime industrial sector in order to identify projects that might have a significant economic impact thanks to innovation breakthroughs: ocean energy projects are included in a “smart offshore industry” subset, and one project has already been promoted: the DeMHy project which is devoted to precise resource assessment of tidal energy in marine and estuarine environments.  

At the time being, this support begins with the ADEME which has an estimated cumulative budget for ocean energy projects (any type of offshore wind excluded) awarded in or before 2020 of 73 M€, which includes 6 large completed or ongoing projects. These projects involve the development of technological bricks for tidal energy, the development of tidal energy converters, wave energy converters, salinity gradient and hybrid systems for insular applications (combined renewable energies and storage systems). Ongoing projects issued from calls for tenders of previous years also involve ocean thermal energy converters, prototypes for all ocean energy technology types and technological bricks like subsea connectors or hubs, foundation concepts, specific dredging or installation tools, etc.

In 2020, the ANR officially awarded France Energies Marines (FEM), one of the seven “Institutes for the Energy Transition” and dedicated to offshore renewable energies, with 16 M€ over the period 2019-2024, for innovative research and development projects. Since this support is meant for public-private collaborative R&D projects, a 1€ public for 1€ private rule implies that more than 30 M€ is thus devoted to this large sector, helping tackle technological bottlenecks and environmental issues.
 
All along the French coastline, at the regional level, local authorities also support the endeavours of the marine renewable energy sector. In addition to grants allocated to R&D federative programmes like the national institute France Energies Marines, or to local initiatives like WEAMEC (Pays de la Loire region), they invest in harbour facilities in order to enable the development of offshore wind and tidal industries, thus providing enough space to build plants along new quays, e.g. in Cherbourg, Brest and St-Nazaire.
 
The two French competitive Sea Clusters, Pôle Mer Bretagne-Atlantique and Pôle Mer Méditerranée, have marine renewable energies in their roadmaps. Through a labelling process, they foster interest in collaborative projects that can apply for national funding, as long as the expected results of those projects can quickly be brought to market.


Consenting processes



MARITIME SPATIAL PLANNING POLICY
Since the adoption in August 2015 of the latest Energy Bill (Loi de Transition Energétique pour la Croissance Verte), an objective of 40% renewable energy in the electricity mix by 2030 has been established. The multi-annual Energy Program for the 2018-2023 period is under construction and will define specific objectives in terms of marine energy.

In parallel, France has accelerated its Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) by launching a National Sea and Shore Strategy in 2017.

In this context at the beginning of 2018, a wide consultation based on 2500 contributions and named Mer Littoral 2030 aimed at defining a national strategy dedicated to maritime and shore issues. This consultation treats in detail the spatial planning of Marine Renewable Energy (MRE). The completed work was overseen by the National Sea and Shore Council (Conseil National de la Mer et du Littoral), but also by each of the four Coastal Maritime Councils (Conseil Maritime de Façade) at the local scale. Strategic coastal documents stemming from this concertation and defining the national strategy for the sea are expected by April 2019.

Although France has already implemented spatial planning tools in the past such as the "Schémas de Mise en Valeur de la Mer" (SMVM, which could be translated as "sea enhancement plans"), they are mainly focused on small scale coastal areas. The current ongoing process thus illustrates the growing willingness of public and private actors in France to build a common strategy dedicated to the use, enhancement and protection of maritime areas and resources.

AUTHORITIES INVOLVED
State authorities driving this MSP are involved at a regional level (Regional Prefect, Maritime Prefect) as well as at the national level through the relevant ministries (Environment, Energy, Oceans, Industry).

CONSENTING PROCESS
Since 2017, a simplified consenting process is effective.

Ocean energy project developers in France must fulfill the following permitting and licensing process by requesting:
• A single permit pertaining to environmental issues which includes an environmental impact assessment (EIA), and if needed, one focusing on Natura 2000 impacts, and one dedicated to protected species delivered by the Prefect. Within this permitting procedure, a public consultation is organized by the State;
• If located in territorial waters, a license to occupy the maritime public domain, which takes into account maritime safety and the use of maritime territories (delivered by the Prefect). This licensing requires a public consultation which can be combined with the preceding process.
• For farms rated above 50MW, an authorization delivered by the Ministry of Energy to generate electricity. This authorization is automatically delivered to the laureates of State calls for tender.

In addition, the developer signs a grid connection convention with the French Transmission System Operator (TSO).

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT
The permit regarding the environment and the license to occupy the maritime public domain require the ocean energy project developer to produce an EIA and, if applicable, a Natura 2000 impact assessment. EIAs are subject to approval by the environmental authority.

The content of the EIA should reflect:
• The environmental sensitivity of the zone likely to be affected by the project;
• The importance and nature of the proposed work and development;
• The foreseen effects on the environment and human health.

The content of the EIA is defined by the environmental code and includes:
• A description of the project, with its different components and phases of construction;
• A description of the initial state of the project zone likely to be affected;
• An analysis of project consequences for the environment and human health within the zone of influence;
• An analysis of cumulative effects of the project with those of other projects either already existing or in development;
• A presentation of measures foreseen to avoid or reduce any substantial negative effects and compensate, whenever possible, important residual negative effects that cannot be avoided or sufficiently reduced (ARO doctrine: Avoid – Reduce – Offset).

LEGISLATION AND REGULATION
The French Government has initiated legislation and regulation simplifications for Ocean Energy Systems over several years in order to facilitate their development and consolidate their funding.

For instance, Decree No. 2016-9 of January 8, 2016, allows the obtaining of a license to occupy the maritime public domain for up to 40 years. This evolution takes into account the specific lifetime of infrastructure and subsea installations, and the relatively long development time of MRE projects.

Moreover, it creates a dedicated and stream-lined process for MRE project deployment requests. As a result, since February 1, 2016, a specific and unique Court (Cour Administrative d’Appel de Nantes) judges all claims regarding: Energy Code authorizations, environmental permits, licenses to occupy the public domain and decisions on successful tenders. It issues the permits for MRE developers, as well as those for the French TSO in charge of grid connections.

Passed in December 2017, the “hydrocarbon” law regulates export cables for MRE farms:
- They will be supplied and maintained by the French TSO for all offshore energies;
- A guaranty mechanism protects the energy producer in terms of damages and delays.

A law is currently under consideration for MRE developers, as well as for the French TSO in charge of grid connections, to allow a new procedure for an all-encompassing permit (“permis enveloppe”). With this permit, developers would not be required to determine all technological choices at the beginning of the project, but would rather define an envelope for some project characteristics. This amendment aims to increase the competitiveness of marine energy projects.

According to this law, and in cases of a call for tenders organized by the State, the documenting of the initial state of the environment will be provided by the State before the opening of the bid.

CONSULTATION
To grant a license or a permit authorizing an activity in the marine environment, the issuing authorities are required to take under consideration the recommendations, comments and advice provided by a wide range of stakeholders in accordance with the existing consultation processes.
In addition, before the launch of a call for tenders, the French State, which is in charge of identifying dedicated sites, conducts wide consultations involving local actors, inhabitants and other users of the zone (including fishermen, sailors, etc.).

During the licensing process for individual projects, non-compulsory public consultations are also organized by the developers.

GUIDANCE AND ADVICE
Information regarding the licensing process is accessible online on French governmental or MRE professional organization websites. A consolidation of processes is ongoing and MRE project developers are responsible for following the evolution of procedures for project licensing.

TEST CENTRES
There is no specific regulation for test centres in France. However, test centres such as SEM-REV (located in Pays de la Loire and dedicated to wave and floating offshore energy technologies), or SEENEOH (located in Bordeaux and dedicated to estuarine stream turbines), are required to hold several authorizations similar to those for MRE projects:
• An environmental permit which includes an EIA;
• A license to occupy the maritime public domain while respecting current water regulations;
• A power generation permit granted by the Ministry of Energy.

As the consents are held by the test site, developers who use the test sites do not have to undergo the full consenting process. Developers are still required to demonstrate that they respect the test site consent conditions as agreed upon by the Authorities and the test site.
 

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