Spotlight on GW EU solar markets: France has successful year but must not drop the ball with retroactive FIT cuts

Over the next few weeks we will spotlight the Top 5 EU markets for solar, based on the results from our latest EU Market Outlook for Solar Power. France was the fifth largest market of 2020, so it comes as no surprise that most of the year’s solar news in France is positive, and the country can boast some impressive solar development. 

Firstly, France crossed the significant capacity threshold of 10 GW installed in 2020. It is now halfway towards its MAEP (Multi-Annual Energy Programme) goal of 20.1 GW of solar capacity by 2023. Secondly, despite the impact of the pandemic, France produced 4.46 TWh of solar in the third quarter of 2020, thereby beating its record from 2019 (4.43 TWh). This is a significant achievement and an important step towards building back better. 

The climate targets that have been set are also promising. The Climate & Energy Law adopted last year confirmed the Energy Transition for a Green Growth law with 2030 targets. The detailed MAEP sets out the requirements for each type of technology, and the targets for 2028 now lie between 35.1 GW and 44 GW in cumulative capacity. To keep in line with these targets, the annual market growth rate will need to rise to 2 GW/year between now and 2023, and then 4 GW/year between 2023 and 2028. As a result of these targets, solar is positioned to be one of the most important contributors to the French energy transition. 

More good news: rooftop installations in France under 500 kW now finally receive feed-in tariffs and are included in tendering procedures. This is something that the French Renewable Energy Trade Association (SER) has been pushing for a long time, and last year the government agreed to this, opening up much more solar potential. Lastly, self-consumption in France is growing quickly, with a dedicated framework for self-consumption in place. In line with these positive steps, some ambitions for the future could include harnessing the untapped potential of Agrisolar and floating PV, in supporting the MAEP 2028 targets, which would see up to 17 GW capacity distributed across land, agriculture and floating installations. These are innovative and exciting opportunities that can help meet climate and energy targets in a versatile and cost-effective manner. 

Amongst this sunny news 2020 still had some grey days. On December 16th, French solar contracts signed between 2006 and 2010 were stifled in an amendment to the Finance Bill 2021, which called for renegotiating prices of solar power contracts during this time period. This amendment had been rejected by the French Senate and faced significant opposition but was pushed through by the Parliament. It will now be essential to examine the details of the measure and the modalities of its implementation in order to ensure that solar remains strong in France, contributing to the country’s ambitious 2028 MEAP targets and beyond.

Solar in France is characterised by ambitious targets, which can be supported by innovative solutions like Agrisolar and floating PV, and a growing self-consumption market. These strengths should keep the country in the Top 5 EU solar markets in the future, so long as the final implementation of the Finance Bill amendment takes the concerns of SER and Enerplan into account, and does not hinder this otherwise flourishing sector. As an example of early 2021 solar success in France, on January 12th, Engie and Neoen announced a 1 GW solar-plus-storage project in south-west France, including a renewable hydrogen production unit and an Agrisolar plant. The project is set to provide renewable energy to more than 600,000 people. 

Many thanks for her market intelligence to: Marie Buchet , Syndicat des Energies Renouvelables (SER)

Photo : Agrisolar, credit: Amarenco

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