France still struggling with PV incentives

On Friday, the provisional report from “Mission Charpin/Trink” was finally negotiated with representatives from France’s PV industry. Afterwards Jean-Michel Charpin and Claude Trink planned to pass on their final version to the French Government, reports Celine Kittel of the Renewable Energies Coordination Office, which supports companies undertaking PV and wind projects in Germany and France.

The two advisors have the task of preparing recommendations for a “new legal framework for the development of photovoltaic energy in France.” Since the end of the year, Charpin and Trink have met in six official rounds of talks with representatives from the solar industry, grid operators and delegates. However, Kittel indicated that parallel to these consultations, the Ministry of the Environment in Paris has already prepared a draft for a new PV regulation. Thus many experts see the talks as bogus.

In their provisional report, Charpin and Trink summed up the results of the consultations. Yet, Kittel says all of the important questions are still open. Consequently, the government, must still decide on whether, and to what extent, there should be a ceiling on the development of PV plants, for example. How to allocate between the different segments, such as roof, commercial and ground-mounted PV plants, is also unclear.

According to information provided by the Coordination Office, it has yet to be determined how the requests for grid access, which were cancelled under the moratorium passed on December 2, 2010, will now be handled after March 9. Whether there will be transitional regulations and how the “queue” of access requests submitted to the grid carriers ERDF and RTE are be managed in the future have yet to be clarified, noted Kittel.

Presumably these questions will be finally settled in the new regulation, drafted by the French Government. Following that, Kittel explains that a final decision will be made as to whether the input of less PV energy in the grid will also be figured into the grid fees, and whether the carbon footprint should be used as a criterion for retaining or defining the amount of the feed-in tariff.

Furthermore, the question is still open as to whether there will now be invitations to tender for roof and ground-mounted plants over 100 kilowatts in size of PV output, and whether they should receive a tariff or not.

The trade union SER has also made suggestions for calculating the “EEG reallocation” differently. One idea shared by many representatives in the industry is to indicate the development parameters for the different PV segments in proportion to the reallocation costs, rather than in megawatts.

Kittel goes on to say that behind this idea is the fact that the tariff degression and the decline in production costs will reduce reallocation and thus more PV plants can be installed. Additionally, SER is working on a “made in France label”, in a bid to set French goods apart from other PV products.

In any case, the final decisions are probably only to be expected in one month. Then the form that solar subsidies will take in France in the future will become clear, as well as what will happen after the end of the three-month moratorium. According to Kittel, the new framework conditions in France will be a central topic at the conference “Photovoltaic ‘made in Europe’ – Prospects Instead of Crisis?”, organized by the Renewable Energies Coordination Office at the German embassy in Paris on April 14.

Government criticism

The interim report prepared by the government commission has been criticized by the French solar industry. In a joint press statement, several federations and trade unions have pointed out the report’s weak points. It states: “It is already too late for France to be able to play a serious role when it comes to international competition. Let us at least create the conditions for a stable, long-term domestic market for our companies such as, for example, in Germany.”

The concrete demands include, among other things, definition of an annual market volume that offers development prospects for the entire PV industry. Furthermore, transparency is demanded when it comes to approving planned projects and a phased plan for the remuneration tariffs, as well as grid parity for solar electricity.

Simplification of approval and acceptance procedures, and creation of a government authority that monitors compliance with the resolved measures are also important elements of a possible development plan in the opinion of industry representatives.