This article was written by Francois De Beaupuy and was published in the Toronto Star on March 28, 2023.
A group of companies led by Electricite de France SA won a government tender to build the country’s largest offshore wind farm, edging out rival bids led by companies such as Engie SA and TotalEnergies SE.
The state-controlled utility, together with Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and Enbridge Inc., has been awarded the right to build a one-gigawatt wind farm off the coast of Normandy, enough to power about 800,000 homes, the Energy Transition Ministry said in a statement on Monday.
The commissioning of the facility is expected in 2031.
“Construction should start toward 2026-2027” once the consortium completes permitting processes, Energy Transition Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said in an interview with newspaper La Presse de La Manche. It should represent an investment of two billion euros ($2.95 billion), she said, adding that the winners have offered to supply power from the facility at less than 45 euros ($66) per megawatt-hours.
The award tightens EDF’s grip on the French market for offshore wind. The utility, together with various partners, won four out the previous seven tenders organized by the French government since 2012, including the last one in 2019. President Emmanuel Macron has said the country should have about 50 wind farms at sea representing an overall production capacity of 40 gigawatts by 2050 as part of the nation’s plan to become carbon neutral by the middle of the century.
France is lagging neighbours such as the U.K., Germany, Denmark and Belgium in that area. Because of long permitting processes, just one commercial wind park has been commissioned so far in French waters, while three others are under construction. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Macron’s government has passed a law aimed at reducing red tape and accelerating administrative approval of renewable energy projects to reduce the country’s dependence on imported fossil fuels.
For the Normandy offshore wind tender, the French government had shortlisted five other bidders or groups of bidders including Shell Plc, Iberdrola SA, a joint venture of Engie and EDP Renovaveis SA, and two separate consortiums led TotalEnergies and Vattenfall AB.
These companies are all among the 10 bidders — or groups of bidders — that have been picked by the government to take part in a tender to build the country’s first commercial-scale floating wind farm, which will be located off the southern shores of Brittany. The winner should be announced by the end of the year, according to the government.
Most of them have also been shortlisted to participate in auctions to build a one-gigawatt wind farm at sea near the Oleron island on the Atlantic Coast, and another wind farm with 1.5 gigawatts of capacity off the Normandy coast.