France’s Renewable Energy Acceleration Bill Removes Barriers

France’s Renewable Energy Acceleration Bill Removes Barriers to Project Development


On February 8, 2023, the French Senate voted for the adoption of the Renewable Energy Acceleration Bill (Projet de loi relatif à l’accélération de la production d’énergies renouvelables) which was first introduced in September 2022 by France’s Energy Transition Minister, Agnès Pannier-Runacher. The bill is a culmination of months of negotiations among the members of the National Council for Ecological Transition (le conseil national de la transition écologique).

The overarching objective of the bill is to remove barriers to the development of renewable energy projects by improving administrative processes and expanding access to project sites. The bill comes at a time when France is behind in meeting its objective of sourcing 32% of its energy consumption from renewables by 2030 set by the Renewable Energy Directive 2018/2001/EU.

In Depth

The key takeaways of the bill are:

  • The creation of “acceleration zones,” (des zones d’accélération pour l’implantation d’installations terrestres de production d’énergies renouvelables), in which procedures for developing renewable energy projects will be expedited. Areas meeting the following criteria can become “acceleration zones”:

    – having the potential to accelerate the production of renewable energy as a result of, for example, abundant sunlight or wind;
    – contributing to the solidarity of supply between territories, therefore decreasing the dependence on foreign importation of energy;
    – posing no risk of water nor land pollution;
    – taking into account the need to diversify renewables according to the specific characteristics in each territory, thereby confirming France’s commitment to develop a variety of sectors; and
    – are not national parks or natural reserves, thus maintaining the country’s protection of competing environmental concerns.

  • Renewable energy installation projects will satisfy the presumption of serving an overriding public interest and thus may qualify for certain exemptions set out in the Environmental Code regarding zoning and natural habitats.
  • Reducing administrative delays. One of the factors attributed to France’s lag in renewable energy production was the issue of administrative delay, as on average it currently takes five years of administrative procedures to build a solar park, seven years for an onshore wind farm and ten years for an offshore windfarm. According to the new bill, processing time for the examination phase in acceleration zones will now have a maximum time limit of three months.
  • The definition and promotion of “Agrivoltaics,” an installation of electricity production using solar irradiation that also contributes long-term to the installation, maintenance, or development of agricultural production. While additional implementing measures are needed to know precisely how this industry will be promoted and regulated, this development is significant given that over half the territory of France is agricultural land previously unavailable to renewable energy projects.
  • More sites will be made available for the installation of solar panels. Under consideration specifically is land running parallel to roads and highways, wasteland along the coast, and land in mountainous communities with a carte communale. Additionally, parking lots larger than 1500 square meters now must have solar thermal or solar photovoltaic energy production devices on at least half of their surfaces.
  • Commercial, industrial, artisanal or administrative buildings, as well as hospitals and other buildings that are at least 500 square meters must have some form of renewable energy production (e.g., revegetation).

Notably, France was the only EU country to fail to meet its 2020 objective of sourcing 23% of its energy consumption from renewables, and thus there is a significant opportunity now for project developers and other investors to help France achieve its more aggressive goals for 2030 and beyond.

For the moment, the effectiveness of the bill remains uncertain as, following the Senate vote, it was referred to the Constitutional Council (Conseil constitutionnel), where it is now awaiting a decision on whether certain provisions are compatible with the French constitution. This referral was made by policy makers who contest aspects of the bill (i) confirming that renewable energy projects serve an overriding public interest and (ii) offsetting the impact of lower than anticipated production due to unexpectedly poor weather conditions. Some consider that these elements unfairly favor the renewable energy sector and create an imbalance with traditional energy producers.

Notwithstanding the constitutional road-bump just mentioned, the new bill is a welcome development for new renewable energy projects in France.

Our Paris-based team is available to advise on all aspects of a renewable energy project, with our multidisciplinary team working in the regulatory, agriculture and trade, corporate advisory, and disputes practices. We will be preparing regular updates as the situation develops.