July 9, 2012, Perpignan, France — New French energy minister Delphine Batho ring-fenced funds for biomass-fuelled combined heat and power (CHP) plants in France during her first official speech.
Speaking at a meeting of the French union for renewable energy SER on 3 July, Batho promised continued development of the industry to 2020. But the minister admitted that concerns over air quality near existing plants require attention, while the sector should seek to minimize the potential for conflicts over land use with existing industries.
Biomass energy “is a strategic industry for France, for energy independence, in order to achieve targets for CO2 reduction but also for cutting energy bills and creating jobs. The segment is nearly 50pc of French renewable output and we must keep it a major part of our energy mix,” Batho said.
With the French government engaged in reducing expenditure, Batho is promising the preservation of subsidies for biomass CHP through the country's heating fund, administered by energy regulator CNE and management agency Ademe. “Despite this time of deep budget cuts I am personally committed to use all available tools to back up an energy source which has already shown its efficiency. Most notably the heating fund, which will remain secured, in order to continue the sustainable growth of this industry,” Batho said.
Biomass energy should be “a concrete part” of the French government's energy transition program, which will be presented in 2013, Batho said. This will include working with the forestry ministry to bolster procurement chains in a country with many small landowners. Around 52pc of French forest cover — 5.4mn hectares (54,000km²) — is held in parcels of less than 25 hectares, spread over 3.4mn plots.
But “beyond biodiversity in France all care possible must be taken not to conflict with existing land use and timber industries”, Batho said. Other concerns include debates over air quality around older and smaller units. “Biomass is clean, providing that certain technological advances lower atmospheric emissions during combustion. We must not lose sight of clean air objectives, we will seek solutions,” she said.
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