France to tender 17.2 GW of solar up to 2025

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In the complete version of France’s new energy strategy – the “Programmation pluriannuelle de l’énergie” (PPE) published by the Ministry for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition of France on Friday, and now under consultation – the French government has provided an outline of how much solar and renewables will be tendered up to 2025.

The government stressed the new strategy, apart from providing a clear time frame for the future procurement exercises, will also reduce bureaucracy to accelerate deployment and reduce costs.

The six-year solar tender program envisages allocation of 2.7 GW this year, and 2.9 GW per year for the next five years. This year, two tenders for ground mounted solar will be held in the second and fourth quarters, with an expected assigned capacity of 800 MW and 1 GW, respectively. Rooftop solar will see three tenders in the first three quarters, with an assigned capacity of 300 MW each.

In each of the following five years, two 1 GW tenders for ground mounted solar will be held in the second and fourth quarters and 300 MW tenders for rooftop PV will be held in each of the first three quarters.

Hydropower will see tenders for only 210 MW up to 2025 but on-shore wind will have a total tendered capacity of 11.4 GW.

Doubling the share of renewables

The costs of PV technology, the document states, are expected to fall 4% per year for large-scale projects, and 5-7% for rooftops.

“In 2028, the cost of rooftop PV could be around €60/MWh while that of ground-mounted solar [could be] around €40/MWh,” the PPE plan states. In the latest tenders held by the French government the average price of ground-mounted solar was €55/MWh, with rooftop projects posting an average of €85/MWh.

The strategy envisages solar reaching an installed capacity of 20 GW by 2024 – 11.6 GW ground-mounted and 9 GW rooftop – and between 35.6 GW, in the worst-case scenario, and 44.5 GW by the end of 2029.

The French government wants to double the share of renewables to between 102-113 GW by 2029. In the best-case scenario, solar would become the largest renewable energy source with the above-mentioned 44.5 GW, followed by onshore wind (35.6 GW), hydropower (26.7 GW) and offshore wind (5.4 GW), with other renewables accounting for around 1.5 GW.

The strategy envisions 65,000-100,000 self-consumption solar projects by 2024, and states improved regulation is needed to enable financing and development of community projects, to raise the size of installations admitted to rooftop tenders and to support the third party model, in which the consumer is not owner of the generating system.

Nuclear will remain dominant

The largest share of power generation by 2028, however, will still be taken by nuclear. With the controversial power source meeting around 71.6% of France’s demand at the moment, the government wanted that figure to fall to half by 2025 but has now admitted defeat on that ambition.

“The target of 50% of nuclear power in the production of electricity in 2025 seemed impossible to achieve without the possibility of putting at risk electricity supply in France, or restarting the construction of fossil-fired power plants, which would be contrary to our goals of fighting climate change,” the authors of the document affirmed.

As a result, 14 nuclear reactors have had a stay of execution until 2035, after originally having been intended to be shuttered by 2025. A clear timeframe, however, is still missing. “The final version of the PPE will identify the sites on which these closures will intervene as a priority,” the strategy stated. “EDF will have to transmit to the government during the consultation period of the PPE, a list of concerned nuclear sites by favoring the shutdowns of reactors leading to the complete stop of any site in order to minimize the social and economic impacts of these closures.”

France has 19 operating nuclear power plants with a combined capacity of 63.2 GW and producing energy for €32-33/MWh, taking into account EDF’s Grand Carénage life extension program, which is aimed at extending the lives of the reactors beyond 40 years. That price range, the strategy noted, is not sensitive to fluctuations in uranium prices but it also does not include the cost of dismantling and managing radioactive waste already created by the plant operators.

According to the document, the French Court of Auditors estimated the cost of producing nuclear power at around €61.6/MWh, including operating and end-of-life costs. Those costs, however, were calculated before the Grand Carénage which, according to the new energy strategy, has lowered EDF’s projected nuclear fleet expenses by 2025 from €55 billion to €45 billion. The document also stresses the nuclear sector employs around 220,000 people – about 6.7% of France’s energy workforce.

The French parliament will consider adopting the new energy law following the public consultation.