On November 14th, French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced the new composition of his Cabinet. There had been speculation Environment State Minister Jean-Louis Borloo could become Prime Minister, therefore replacing François Fillon. The exact opposite occurred since François Fillon remains at his place whereas Jean-Louis Borloo is no longer a member of the government.

What does this mean for renewable energies?

Well, the previous Environment State Minister is now replaced by a very competent person, Nathalie Kosciusko- Morizet, who was State Secretary in charge of Ecology between June 2007 and January 2009 and had fervently defended the Environmental Chart adopted in France in 2004. However, she will not be State Minister (a kind of vice prime-minister) as was Jean-Louis Borloo, but “only” Minister. Consequently, the Environment Minister, which used to be the second most important Minister behind the Prime Minister, is now at the fourth place, the government hence seeming to give less priority to environmental issues.

This interpretation is further emphasized by the fact that the Energy Department is no longer under the tutelage of this Environmental Minister but is now under the supervision of Eric Besson, Minister in charge of Industry, Energy and Net Economy, who works directly for the Economy Minister, Christine Lagarde. The will of the newly reshuffled government is apparently to give less priority to renewable energies and more priority to the most developed source of energy in France: the nuclear one.

However, the state of matters is not as clear as it appears to be: the Prime Minister has indeed stated that “though issues related to energy would directly depend from the Minister of Industry, such issues would be closely dealt with Nathalie Kosciuscko-Morizet.” In addition, the President himself asserted that she “will be in charge of the determination of the energy price for all renewable energies and will be associated to all decisions related to energy”.

It can only be a good thing that questions of energy remain related to environmental issues even if to a lesser and definitely unknown extent. The question is whether the government really had a choice: indeed, the Environment Minister still has major issues to deal with and eyes will definitely remain on her office: statutes still need to be fully implemented such as the Grenelle Environment provisions, which aim is to promote renewable energies which are expected to represent 23% of the energy produced in France in 2020. Her office will not be easy, especially knowing that it starts with the publication of the decrease of the purchase price of solar electricity by ERDF1, which is seen as a major blow to the development of solar energy and therefore to the Grenelle provisions as less people will be willing to invest in such energy.

On a more positive point of view, the decrease of the purchase price may have at least two encouraging aspects:

  • There was complaint about too much speculation on solar energy; well, those speculators will obviously now be less interested in such market, which will therefore be sounder for the remaining investors that are willing to invest on a well-founded and long-term basis;
  • Considering that solar energy producers are not under the obligation to sell their electricity to ERDF, it may also mean an opening up to competition with foreign actors buying more such electricity as the prices are becoming more and more attractive.  

Finally, it is also interesting to note that the state of technology in France is quite advanced with regard to renewable energies and such energies are developing fast according to the Agence France Presse. A dispatch dated November 19th states indeed that the production of wind and solar energy has strongly increased in this third semester: wind power production has increased of 15 % since the beginning of this year and solar power production has increased of 137 % since the end of 2009.  

Clearly, renewable energies still have a great potential ahead of them. Let's now hope for the best and that the President will keep, as promised in 2007, the development of renewable energies as one of his priorities.