A cacophony over the implementation of the Renewable Energy Acceleration Act
Published on Sunday 10 September 2023 | Article n°456
In France, the Renewable Energies Acceleration Act provides for decrees organising photovoltaic installation acceleration zones. They are expected at the end of September. They will then be applied
within two months. However, most municipalities will not be able to propose effective zones by this date. This means that projects due to be authorised after December 2023 will have to be submitted to a steering committee, the composition and operation of which are as yet unclear.
In December, a photovoltaic project of more than 3.5 MW had to either be installed in an acceleration zone or go through a steering committee to obtain planning permission.
This procedure will come into force even though the acceleration zones have not yet been defined by the municipalities (which are responsible for identifying these zones). They had less than six months in which to organise a public consultation and local deliberation, assess the potential power output in order to take into account sufficient space to achieve the regional objectives for the development of renewable energies.regional targets for the development of renewable energies (which have not yet been defined) and have the mapping validated by the regional energy committee.
According to the professionals, small towns and cities are not equipped to properly study the scheme for defining acceleration zones and to carry out the identification process in depth. In their view, the zones could be ready "in June 2024 at the earliest".
If nothing is done, projects requiring planning permission from December 2023 onwards will de facto (in the absence of acceleration zones) be associated with the "greenfield" procedure.lération zones) will be associated with the "out-of-zone" procedure and will therefore have to go before a steering committee to obtain authorisations.
The risk is that the acceleration zone will be defined without thinking about the connection. If these zones are too far from the substation, there will be additional costs or delays in connection. There could also be connection sites with too little available capacity and/or end up hosting too high a density of projects for the local network. If no projects can be connected in the proposed areas, this will not speed up RE development. All in all, the professionals regret the lack of consideration given to cross-cutting issues in France's green energy development strategies.
Other problems arise in the application of this law: the biodiversity study is detached from the landscape study, which does not take account of the acoustic study, etc... Similarly, issues of access to land are separated from the announced targets for photovoltaic capacity to be deployed. Legislation introduces new measures to add to the jumble of regulations, even though the legislator claims to want to simplify matters. The authorities are asking local authorities to do more work, but are not allocating more resources to enable them to carry out their duties.
We're already seeing a slowdown in the processing of applications by the energy centre commissions, sometimes with postponements of six months because they lack the staff and resources to deal with all the requests. The understaffing of certain government departments can delay projects, even though the land is secure and the environmental studies are ready.
PV Magazine of 4 September 2023
Editor's note This is a case of a European directive designed to encourage the development of renewable energies, but which does not take into account the specific characteristics of the French administration. The result is an administrative dysfunction.