Six bidders have been pre-selected by the French government to participate in the so-called ‘competitive dialogue’, the next phase of a tender to build a 1GW offshore wind project off Normandy – all of them international companies or consortia already active in wind at sea.

France’s ecological transition ministry said that while the project has aroused widespread interest, it has chosen the candidates in view of their technical and financial capacities.

The bidders are:

  • Eoliennes en Mer Manche Normandie, a project company of EDF and Maple Power, the latter a joint venture of Enbridge and CPPIB
  • Iberdrola Renovables France
  • Ocean Winds, the joint venture for offshore wind of Engie and EDPR
  • Shell
  • A consortium of Total and RWE
  • A consortium of Vattenfall, German developer Wpd and the Banque des Territoires.

The competitive dialogue aims to reduce project costs and secure implementation, by giving applicants a chance to improve their offers during the procedure. The process was introduced after years-long delays at France’s first wave of offshore wind projects, which despite their tenders being held in 2012 and 2014 still haven’t been built.

Spanish renewables giant Iberdrola, which next week will start the offshore construction phase at one of the early projects - Saint Brieuc off Brittany - in a note stressed that France is a strategic market for the company in which it plans to invest €4bn ($4.8bn) by 2025.

"Normandy represents a major milestone for France's energy transition, as it is the first project within the multi-annual energy plan which states the French government's commitment to award 1GW of offshore wind per year," said Javier García Pérez, Iberdrola's offshore wind business director.

"As a world leader in offshore wind, with major projects already operating in the North Sea and the Baltic, and with the construction of Saint-Brieuc offshore wind farm underway, we are confident that we can bring our expertise and delivery capabilities to the development of this new project."

Swedish rival Vattenfall, which had already bid in a 2019 tender for the 600MW Dunkirk offshore wind zone together with Wpd, stressed the attractiveness of the French market and said it was enthusiastic to participate in the Normandy tender.

Offshore wind world champion Orsted was not on the shortlist for the Normandy auction, casting some doubt about how attractive the French market really is. Orsted has repeatedly said it will check any new project very carefully for its economic viability.

"We did not seek to pre-qualify for the upcoming French tender," an Orsted spokesman told Recharge.

"France has good potential for offshore wind, and we may pursue future opportunities in France, but for now we will focus our attention on other markets."

The pre-selection of the six candidates rewards the legislative and regulatory reforms undertaken for several years, said French wind energy association FEE.

"The number of successful candidates is testimony to the attractiveness of the French offshore market," said FEE president Nicolas Wolff

"We must now collectively maintain this momentum, and continue the efforts initiated, in particular by maintaining a sustained rate of calls for tenders, in accordance with the energy-climate ambitions voted by parliament."

France as part of its multi-year energy plan (PPE) aims to build 6.2GW of offshore wind capacity by 2028.

The French state over the next few months will discuss a draft specification for the tender that already incorporates comments made in public hearings, in particular a better consideration of the environment and fishing activities, an improvement in local economic benefits, and incentives for a rapid implementation of projects at sea and on land.

“The future of our electricity system depends on the development of offshore wind power: it is a sustainable, secure, competitive source of energy that does not emit greenhouse gases,” ecological transition minister Barbara Pompili said.

“I welcome the opening of the competitive dialogue for this fourth call for tenders and the interest it has generated, which underlines the economic dynamism of the sector.

“The wind conditions and the seabed off Normandy are very favourable for offshore wind turbines, which makes it possible to install wind turbines that produce a lot of energy, under competitive economic conditions.”

The winning bid of the Normandy tender is scheduled to be announced next year, with commissioning planned for 2028.

UPDATES with comment by Iberdrola and by the French wind power association