France on Nov. 17 published details of plans to double the share of renewable sources in its electricity market to meet a 2020 EU objective. Solar will spearhead the challenge to give renewables a 23% share of the electricity mix by 2020, compared with 10.3% in 2005, Ecology Minister Jean-Louis Borloo said, as he unveiled the 50-point plan.
"Solar is the big one," said Borloo. "In industrial terms, and in terms of lower industrial costs, it's there that we have the biggest capacity." He contended that solar energy would be competitive with other sources "around 2020."
One measure will be to build 300 megawatts of capacity through large sun farms that will be set up in each region. The size of each facility will depend on local geography and exposure to the sun.
Supermarkets and other installations with large roofs will be encouraged to install photovoltaic panels -- power-generating solar cells -- with the help of a special feed-in tariff.
Nuclear currently accounts for around 80% of France's electricity needs, by far the highest proportion of any country in the world.
France ranks fourth in the EU for installed solar capacity, after Germany, Spain and Italy. Capacity rose from six MW in 2006 to 18 MW in mid-2008.
In wind power, the goal is to increase the amount of installed capacity by a factor of 10, from 2,500 MW in 2007 to 25,000 MW in 2020, with the backing of a new roster of laws.
A "Renewable Heat Fund" will be launched next year to support production of heat from a variety of sources, including geothermal, biogas and solar thermal collectors, which use the sun's heat to warm water in rooftop tanks.
According to France's energy agency, Ademe, the market for renewable energy could reach 24 billion euros (US$30.24 billion) in 2012 and foster 120,000 jobs.
The European Union (EU) has set a target of reducing its carbon emissions by 20% by 2020, with renewables accounting for 20% of power needs.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008