In 2009, France committed to an overall objective of 23 percent
of renewable electricity production by 2020 in the context of the
EU Climate Change Package. While the French incentives in terms of
tax amortization and preferential electricity purchase rates have
attracted great attention to the exponential development of solar
and wind powered energy, biomass is increasingly perceived as a
more reliable and efficient alternative source of energy.
France is targeting an overall capacity of biomass power plants
of 2,300 MW by 2020, in order to increase its yearly biomass
electricity production by a factor 5 compared to its 2006 level, so
as to reach a yearly production of 1,200 ktons of oil equivalent by
2020. As for other alternative electricity sources, this policy is
served essentially by preferential purchase rates for biomass
electricity and tender processes for larger projects exceeding a
capacity of 12 MW.
In this context, the French government launched its fourth
tender for biomass projects for an overall capacity of 200 MW on
July 28, 2010. The submission phase of the tender will end on
February 28, 2011. This tender is open to projects having a
capacity of at least 12 MW and an energy efficiency rate of at
least 60 percent. The basic electricity purchase rate should range
from €135 to €155/MWh, depending on the energy
efficiency of the project, and it should be indexed on the hourly
cost of work and the industry production prices in France, in order
to take into account the inflation.
This tender targets medium to large projects with a high energy
efficiency and reliability, in line with the French electricity
investment guidelines for the 2009–2020 period
(Programmation pluriannuelle des investissements de production
d'électricité). Indeed, while the 12 MW
threshold excludes small projects, it is considered that the
minimum requirement of a 60 percent energy efficiency rate limits
the scope of the tender to combined power and heat systems, which
are the only ones capable of reaching such ratio. Moreover, the
benefit of the preferential purchase rate is subject to a yearly
availability ranging from 3,000 to 7,500 hours, which requires a
high reliability of the power plant.
The tender also targets integrated projects in priority, with a
view to structuring and developing the upstream biomass supply
chain and integrating biomass projects in larger industrial
contexts, in particular through the direct use of the heat
A growing number of industrial players are calling for a reform
of the preferential purchase rates for renewable electricity in
France, in order to reallocate them to more reliable sources of
renewable electricity, such as biomass projects. In the current
context of the undergoing reform of solar electricity purchase
rates and mechanisms, one can only speculate on whether the
government will decide to increase incentives for other sources of
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