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Comment: France ups feed-in tariff for solar, geothermal and biomass

Paul Gipe

France has introduced new feed-in tariffs for 2010 with higher geothermal, biomass, and building integrated solar photovoltaic (BIPV) tariffs than in 2009.

Media reports of the new solar PV tariffs have overshadowed the significantly higher tariffs for geothermal-electricity generation, and for biomass. Sex sells, and solar PV remains "sexier" than humdrum geothermal power plants and downright old school biomass plants.

Feed-in tariffs for wind energy have remained unchanged since 2006 except for increases due to inflation.

In an odd twist, English-language media is widely reporting a "24% cut" in French solar PV feed-in tariffs while French sources are warning that some of the tariffs have been raised too high.

For the most part the tariffs announced by Minister of Energy and the Environment, Jean-Louis Borloo, reflect those published in late 2009.

Biomass feed-in tariff doubled

Borloo has more than doubled tariffs for biomass from €€0.064/kWh to €€0.125/kWh (US$0.18/kWh). He also raised the efficiency bonus to €€0.05/kWh (US$0.07/kWh).

Geothermal feed-in tariff up almost 70%

The geothermal feed-in tariff in continental France was raised nearly 70% from €0.12/kWh to €€0.20/kWh (US$0.29/kWh). The geothermal feed-in tariff for French overseas territories, several of which have significant geothermal potential, was raised 30% from €0.10/kWh to €0.13/kWh (US$0.19/kWh).

BIPV feed-in tariff ‘highest in world’

Borloo is claiming that France has instituted the highest solar PV feed-in tariff in the world. The feed-in tariff for BIPV installed on occupied dwellings and buildings housing health care is €0.58/kWh (US$0.84/kWh). For all other buildings, the BIPV tariff is €0.50 (US$0.72/kWh).

The ministry made other changes in solar PV feed-in tariffs:
  • BIPV (dwellings and health care): €€0.58/kWh (US$0.84/kWh)
  • BIPV (other buildings): €€0.50 (US$0.72 /kWh)
  • Simplified BIPV: €0.42 (US$0.61/kWh)
  • Ground-mounted PV >250 kW
    • In the sunny south: €€0.314 (US$0.45/kWh)
    • In the cloudy north: €€0.377 (US$0.58/kWh)
  • Inflation Indexing Reduced to 20%
  • No depression until 2013

English-language media has focused on the feed-in tariff for ‘simplified BIPV’ that was decreased from €0.55/kWh to €0.42/kWh, a 24% reduction. However, ‘simplified BIPV’ in France was never the type of rooftop solar PV seen in Germany or anywhere else in the world. In a uniquely French approach, the solar PV must be integrated into the roof of the building not just mounted on top.

In contrast to English-language media's reporting, French solar advocates have warned the Government that the feed-in tariffs for ground-mounted solar PV and BIPV are too high. They warn of a potential ‘solar bubble’ like in neighbouring Spain in 2008 and instead have called for more ‘sustainable tariffs’ and for a programme more aimed at residential and commercial buildings than the current programme.

Both Hespul and CLER (Comité de Liaison Energie Renouvelables) have charged that the current solar feed-in programme, while creating a risk of a speculative solar bubble, focuses too narrowly on a niche market for new buildings. Hespul and CLER emphasise that the potential of solar in France atop existing buildings is vast.

The two advocacy groups argue that a ‘good’ solar feed-in tariff is one that permits generators to earn a profit from their investments and enable increasing electricity generation in a sustainable manner. Hespul and CLER charge that France's BIPV feed-in tariffs are not sustainable and will account for a large portion of the costs of the French feed-in tariff programme in the years ahead.

Hespul warns that the BIPV are so attractive that they will lead to the construction of building shells that will house nothing but support a BIPV roof to take advantage of the high feed-in tariffs. Such abuses have been seen in southern Italy.

About the author:

This feed-in tariff news update is partially supported by the Jan & David Blittersdorf Foundation in cooperation with the Institute for Local Self Reliance. The views expressed are those of Paul Gipe and are not necessarily those of the sponsors.

Paul Gipe
661 325 9590, 661 472 1657 mobile,

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Bioenergy  •  Geothermal  •  Green building  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wind power