The European Commission recently endorsed three French schemes to support solar and hydropower energy generators in France under EU state aid rules. The schemes will allow France to develop around 2600 megawatts of additional solar capacity and 60 megawatts of additional hydropower capacity.
The two solar schemes together have a provisional budget of 439 million per year (or a total of 8.8 billion over 20 years) and the hydropower scheme has a provisional budget of 25 million per year (or a total of 500 million over 20 years). These measures will help France achieve its 2020 target of producing 23% of its energy needs from renewable sources.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, responsible for Competition, said: 'These French initiatives will stimulate a greater use of renewable energy sources and provide legal certainty to the sector, while limiting the use of state support to the minimum. This is a very important balance for Europe in the pursuit of our environmental objectives'.
The approved schemes consist of the following measures:
- A solar scheme which provides for the payment of a preferential price (feed-in tariff) to operators of small-scale solar installations of less than 100 kilowatts in size, installed on domestic or commercial roofs. This scheme will develop around 1500 megawatts in additional solar capacity.
- A solar support scheme for operators of larger solar installations (those between 100 and 250 kilowatts and those above 250 kilowatts) with a feed-in tariff over twenty years. France selected the beneficiaries of this scheme under tenders conducted between July 2011 and March 2013. This scheme will develop around 1100 megawatts in additional solar capacity.
- A hydropower support scheme that will grant support for up to 60 megawatts of new hydropower plants. The beneficiaries will be selected through a tender. Plants with a capacity of less than 500 kilowatts may receive a feed-in tariff while bigger installations will receive their support in the form of a top-up payment or 'feed-in premium', which will fluctuate depending on the market price for electricity.
The Commission assessed all three schemes under EU state aid rules, which ensure that the use of public funds is limited and there is no overcompensation. It concluded that the measures will boost the share of electricity produced from renewable energy sources, in line with the environmental objectives of the EU, while the distortion of competition caused by the state support is minimized.
The Renewable Energy Directive established targets for all Member States' shares of energy renewable energy sources by 2020. For France that target is 23% by 2020. All three of the schemes aim to contribute to reaching that target.
The non-confidential version of the decisions will be published in the State aid register on the competition website under the case numbers SA. 40349 for the small scale solar scheme, SA 41528 for the tendered solar support scheme and SA.46259 for the hydropower tender. The Commission State aid website lists new publications of State aid decisions on the internet and in the EU Official Journal.