27 January 2010: France, offshore wind and district heating

French President Sarkozy has announced that the French government will invest €10bn in a 3Gw offshore wind farm. A call for tenders has been issued, with a decision promised in 2012. Launching the tender, Sarkozy said  that 10,000 jobs could be created as part of the project, which will involve the construction of 600 offshore wind turbines (see PennEnergy: France launches tender for 3GW offshore wind farm).

This is the first serious move by France to develop offshore wind. The government has a target – of course – to develop 6Gw of offshore wind. Around 30 offshore projects are being discussed in France, which have a total capacity of 8Gw. However, as those of us in the UK know very well, targets and projects in the pipeline don’t always lead to actual results (indeed in the UK they usually don’t). So, it is excellent that the French government is actually moving ahead with policies and money. It needs now also to take action to convert ports, to make them suitable for offshore wind construction.

Also this week, the European Commission has authorized the French government to give a €26 million grant to GDF Suez to develop a district heating network in the North-East of Paris. GDF Suez – now the world’s largest utility and quite progressive on climate issues – will use the new network to promote renewable heating boilers, using biomass, biogas and geothermal energy, and to encourage residents to switch from electric heaters.

The Commission’s press release announcing the authorization states that the project:

“… will lead to the closing of a conventional boiler using fossil fuel in this area. Thanks to this and other projects under way, by 2020 nearly 20% of the energy used in the heating of Paris would come from renewable sources …as opposed to none at the moment.”

(See Europa: State aid: Commission approves €26 million French aid for district heating network in Paris.)

The Commission also says that the climate benefits of this project are a key reason why they have authorised the grant.

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