It may be the falling costs of renewables and energy storage or the competitive power of tenders – or most likely a combination of the two factors.
New tender awards announced by France’s ministry for Ecological and Solidarity Transition (formerly Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy) for solar PV and storage systems for the country’s overseas departments are down more than 40% in price compared to the previous call for tenders in 2015.
The average contract price of the latest tender is €113.6/MWh and compares with the average €204/MWh in the previous tender. It is also competitive in relation to the total production costs in these zones, which average more than €200/MWh.
The overseas departments include Corsica, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, La Réunion and Mayotte. The new installations are aimed at strengthening their energy independence while transitioning to carbon-free electricity production.
A total of 67 solar-storage projects ranging in size from 100kW up to 5MW in size were awarded with a total capacity of 63.3MW.
Solar-storage projects on French territories
Of these, 50 committed to providing electricity during the peak consumer period, according to the ministry statement. Storage devices will also improve the smoothing and predictability of solar production and facilitate the integration of renewable energies into isolated power grids.
In addition, in a separate tender for self-consumption installations at shopping malls, industrial centres, etc., 42 awards with a total capacity of 11.8MW were made. The awardees, which will receive an average premium of €34.19/MWh, will be able to consume the renewable electricity they produce or use it with third parties.
Self generation projects
According to the statement, the average self-consumption rate of the tender winners was over 90%, reflecting a real willingness to use own electricity.
Further, of the two calls for tenders, more than 50% of the projects have committed themselves to participatory investment and will see their premium increased by €3/MWh. This level of commitment reflects the desire of citizens and communities to take ownership of energy production and to guarantee the energy autonomy of their territories.
“The designation of new projects for renewable energy production plants confirms the dynamism of this sector which will take an increasingly important part of our electricity generation in the coming years,” said Ecological and Solidarity Transition Minister and Minister of State, Nicolas Hulot.
“The development of this type of facilities equipped with storage devices provides a steady, continuous and secure electricity supply for the benefit of consumers.”
The ministry statement says that these new awards support the ambitions of France’s new Climate Plan. Aimed to mobilise the government to meet the Paris Agreement, the plan calls for an end to the use of fossil fuels in France and for engagement in carbon neutrality, among other points.
For the islands and remote territories such as Guyana, solar with storage and other technologies such as microgrids are clearly the way to go. Indeed, such locations were identified by IRENA as one of the first key application areas for the technology. The further declining costs since that January 2015 study strengthen this view. Remote microgrids now account for about 45% of the more than 1,800 microgrids currently tracked by Navigant Research.
Based on its work with several islands, IRENA stresses the need for a roadmap to guide energy development.
A recent review of island microgrids by the Rocky Mountain Institute and Carbon War Room has also found that microgrids with diverse resource mixes are often less prone to system failure than microgrids that rely on a single resource, since they have multiple resource options for electricity generation.
In addition, energy efficiency measures such as lighting, more efficient appliances and building insulation, which are more cost effective than generation, should be an important component of a renewable microgrid transition.
With more than 2,700 islands in Europe, these are clearly an important component in contributing towards the region’s intended clean energy transition. In order to support this process, the European Commission along with 14 EU countries intend to launch a ‘Clean Energy for All European Islands Initiative’.
The countries are Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. The launch is scheduled to take place in Crete on 22 September.
The initiative, an offshoot of the Clean Energy for all Europeans drive, is intended to create a forum to share best practices in meeting island energy challenges and a framework for access to funding and the technical assistance and other support that might be needed to transition to a renewable energy system.