Author: Tom van der Linden, Solarplaza
Although the crowds have attracted a fair share of random protesters that range from grumpy citizens to full-on anarchists, it can be said that - in its heart - the initial sentiment does not trace its core back to a mentality that opposes the combating of climate change, but rather a group of people seeking a more economically just approach to mitigating the effects of climate change. Doting their yellow garments, these concerned citizens are protesting ‘eco-elitism’. In fact, groups of protesters have actually clamored for hydrogen alternatives to gasoline and diesel vehicles, as well as better maintenance of public transit in rural areas.
All things considered, this explosive phenomenon does touch upon a challenge that governments around the world are currently facing: what are the best methods to regulate and limit carbon emissions and promote greener alternatives?
France is currently on a steep learning curve, pushing hard to reach the targets set at the Paris Climate Agreements it hosted and so fervently seeks to embody. The ‘yellow vest’ protests actually came just a week after President Emmanuel Macron’s government announced its new long-term energy strategy, in which it stipulated plans to further open up possibilities for renewables, including putting a significant target on solar energy development of 45 GW by 2030. However, the plan also outlined a delay in the decommissioning of approximately 20% of France’s nuclear power generation assets, resetting that deadline from 2025 to 2035. Amidst all of these events, everyone is trying to figure out what these new measures mean for the future of solar energy in France.
The solar PV industry is now one of the fastest-growing sectors to contribute to France’s energy mix, boasting great potential to tackle the issues of greenhouse gas emissions and energy security. In fact, the country will have to support and accelerate the development of solar energy in order to meet its obligations of having 23% of final energy demand from renewable sources by 2020.
Regulation, however, is one of the key factors for solar to continue its growth. In recent years, it's been credited for clarifying and stabilizing the environment and boosting the development of the sector. Provided that the right regulatory conditions remain progressive, the French solar market is forecasted to grow with 1.2-1.5 GW both for 2018 and 2019, and is expected to have an annual growth rate of 2-3 GW after that. Currently, market development is largely being pushed by government-hosted tenders, catalyzing competitiveness and a drop in solar energy pricing.
One thing is clear though, the French market absolutely requires a healthy dialogue between regulatory bodies, financial stakeholders, industry players and citizens and a much larger level of understanding, education and insights.