France PV update: 613 MW added in 2013, FIT changes proposed


Data published by the French General Commission on Sustainable Development (CGDD) have revealed that France added 613 MW of PV capacity across the country last year, down 45% on 2012, when 1.15 GW was added.

The country ended 2013 with a cumulative PV capacity of 4.67 GW, of which 4.35 GW is on the French mainland and 318 MW spread across France’s overseas territories. Broken down further, the majority of PV capacity added in France last year – 294 MW to be exact – was for plants larger than 250 kW. In comparison, mid-range installations of between 100 and 250 kW grew by just 11 MW last year. For smaller installations of between 36 and 100 kW, the situation was rosier, with 156 MW of PV capacity added in this range last year.

At the end of December 2013 there were 35,128 PV projects pending authorization throughout France, totaling a proposed PV pipeline of 2.7 GW of additional capacity, hinting that the appetite for solar remained strong despite a slow year.

In light of this information, the French government submitted to the country’s Energy Council a proposal to scrap France’s domestic content bonus scheme. As part of the French FIT, PV system owners receive a 5% or 10% bonus if their PV systems use components that were manufactured in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The 5% bonus applies to residential buildings fitted with PV; ground-mounted PV plants, and systems with simplified integration that require crystalline modules. To be eligible for the bonus, these installations must use modules that were produced in the EEA, including the wafer transformation process. If those same crystalline modules were also assembled and laminated in the EEA, the system is then eligible for the 10% bonus. The same rules apply for systems that use thin-film modules.

The domestic content bonus was introduced early in 2013 for residential and simplified installations, and a little earlier for ground-mount plants. The government, having assessed its impact, or lack thereof, has suggested eliminating this incentive having recognized that such stipulations contravene European Union regulations and could no longer be justified as a means of protecting French consumer and public interest.

The proposal will be discussed on March 12. Should the law be repealed, projects that have already applied for the bonus will still be eligible to receive it.