To discuss the development of solar energy for citizens in France, pv magazine spoke with Marion Richard, head of the national animation division at Energie Partagée, an association that brings together, supports and finances initiatives by civil collectives and local communities to produce renewable energy.
pv magazine: what is your current assessment of solar photovoltaics and what are your development goals in this segment?
Marion Richard: Of the 310 marked civic projects, all phases combined (origin, development, operation), 80% are photovoltaics. A small subtlety though: for PV cluster projects there is currently only one “initiative” per cluster – and not all installations included in the cluster.
Currently, 158 PV projects are in operation, representing 87 MW, which is the equivalent of electricity consumption without heating and domestic hot water for more than 92,000 people. This covers 40% of the civil renewable electricity projects currently in operation, with the remainder mainly covered by wind power and marginally hydropower.
Behind these numbers, we see that the range of PV projects covers the majority of PV cluster-type projects implemented in segments that are often of little interest to traditional private operators, such as devices with relatively small unit power – although not marginal when added together. They also have a very strong impact on education and in terms of mobilizing citizens in the field of energy transformation.
In addition, other more powerful installations are being created, which testify to the real dynamics of the massification of citizen energy and where the exemplification of the gathering of citizens – in terms of ecology, local anchoring, local advantages – is beneficial for the territory, but also for the sector and the energy transformation in general. Small ground photovoltaic projects are also very interesting for citizens. Finally, we can only note a strong enthusiasm for collective self-consumption, largely reinforced by the ban on the accumulation of public support, which greatly weakened the economic model of many total injection projects in the northern half of France.
It is precisely this variety of projects that we want to continue to support.
What are the main obstacles to the creation of more citizen energy projects?
The reason can be cited as the inappropriateness of support systems that do not allow taking into account territorial differences (differences in solar or wind sources, installation costs different depending on the region, etc.), as well as the prohibition of the cumulation of support between price purchases and local or regional support for energy production, which heavily penalizes small photovoltaic projects with low profitability in the northern half. Regarding over-the-counter contracts (PPAs), concrete mechanisms to support civil PPAs are still lacking.
Furthermore, while local authorities play a vital role in the development of renewable energy and in particular civic projects, a number of barriers limit their investment in the projects. More generally, a major obstacle is the glaring lack of local engineering. Finally, projects for citizens suffer more than others from administrative obstacles to the development of renewable energies: numerous contacts for permits, complexity and costs of tendering access procedures, lack of visibility of connection costs.
The so-called Act for the Acceleration of Renewable Energy Production (AER) was published earlier this year and we expect the new OOPP soon. To what extent should these regulations affect citizens’ energy projects, especially solar?
The AER Act is not suitable for the acceleration of renewable energies in general, and especially for civil energy. The option to introduce tariff modulation has certainly been introduced, which is a first step, but it only applies to tender winning projects located in acceleration zones and therefore does not represent a solution for small PV projects that need additional help from local authorities. to compensate for the inadequacy of a homogeneous tariff on the national territory with heterogeneous deposits, but since the ban on the accumulation of support, it no longer has access to it. We can note the legal certainty of specific support for energy communities in calls for tenders and progress in the ability of communities to make long-term energy purchases, but without concrete progress in DDD projects implemented by citizens.
As for the Energy and Climate Programming Act (LPEC), we hope that it will set goals for citizens’ energy.
What existing incentives for civic energy exist and are available today? (Financial aid, support, regulatory obligations, etc.)
We can list different types of help:
– elements in state support systems for RES, in particular bonus points for shared management projects in calls for tenders (bonus 3 to 5 points out of a total of 100 points, i.e. leverage too weak)
– subsidies for projects and project managers (from local authorities and/or ADEME), which, however, can no longer relate to energy production support for PV injection projects after the ban on cumulation of support
– supporting the support of leading projects, structuring the sector, coordinating actors and increasing their skills through assistance to regional civil energy networks and the leader of the network that is Energy Shared (ADEME and regions).
– Finally, at the local level, communities can facilitate citizen projects by providing public land, promoting communication, providing meeting rooms for citizen groups, etc.
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