Why France’s third offshore wind tender will cut cost-of-energy

As France mulls its next offshore wind tender, FEE's Matthieu Monnier says a Dutch-style model could be key as the nascent industry wades out

As President François Hollande reminded delegates at the French maritime economy summit in La Rochelle earlier this month, offshore wind remains a key priority for France’s energy transition, with a target of 3GW installed by 2023.

But the process, so far, has not gone to plan — the 3GW of projects awarded in the first two tender rounds have been delayed by litigation and ongoing discussions about the permitting process, which have held up final investment decisions and project construction.

The rules for the third round, which will award nearly 500MW in the Dunkirk zone off northern France, have been designed to streamline the process, remove the reasons for litigation, and significantly reduce the price of energy — as well as make the French offshore wind supply chain more competitive on the global stage.

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After seeing the record-breaking low offshore wind prices achieved in Danish auctions, French energy minister Ségolène Royal announced new tendering rules in April similar to Denmark’s, in which the state carries out some preliminary studies and surveys at offshore sites. This should reduce the risk and expense for developers — thus making the sector more attractive and therefore more competitive — and cut the levelised cost of energy.

The third tender also should remove the need for developers to choose their turbine suppliers in advance as part of the bidding process — as in Denmark and the Netherlands, which would increase the competition between the industry players.

This in no way should prevent local equipment being used. On the contrary, the third tender will be a major incentive and opportunity for French suppliers to reduce their costs and become more competitive.

In return, the industry expects greater visibility and fixed manufacturing volumes. FEE believes the government should announce a series of tenders — including volumes, dates and ceiling prices — much like the forward-looking Dutch multi-annual offshore wind plan.

At the same time, the state is providing key backing for floating wind, awarding licences for four pilot projects that may well be in the water at around the same time (2019-20) as the first round of the larger fixed-foundation wind farms.

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This new market has huge potential around the world, and first-mover status is likely to be a clear advantage for French players far into the future. And there is no reason why this segment should not see similar cost reductions to fixed-foundation offshore wind in the not-too-distant future.

So the French government is showing that it is taking offshore wind seriously and understands what is needed to remove risks, reduce costs and build a thriving industry. If it can now unveil a multi-year plan to give long-term visibility, it will provide a significant boost to the domestic sector and ensure that the country plays a leading role in the future of offshore wind.

Matthieu Monnier is industry and offshore wind advisor at French wind association, France Energie Eolienne

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