France govt readies polices to roll out biomethane

6 Apr 2018 |

The French government said it will soon take measures to speed up the deployment of biomethane projects, such as a streamlined approvals process and easier access to project finance, so the country can use 10% renewable gas in its overall gas consumption by 2030.

In late March, France’s ecology minister Sébastien Lecornu presented 15 proposals that are likely to form the basis of a detailed plan to roll out biomethane production to farms across France and use the resulting gas in power generation, heating and road transport.

The proposals draw heavily on a government-commissioned policy paper presented last month by France Biomethane, a lobby group for the sector, and plans to dismantle a series of bureaucratic hurdles that have so far prevented fast growth in biogas production.

The 15-point plan aims to scale up public support for the sector, and lay out the regulatory framework for the use of biogas in road transport. The government is also aiming to encourage the connection of smaller facilities to plant networks that feed into the gas grid and provide them the requisite finance.   

The plan also envisages much greater use of biogas in road transport, and increased connection to plant networks.

The government also proposes a call for tenders for so-called "atypical" injection projects, that are not standard specifications and will aim to raise the production of biogas on existing sites.

France uses a feed-in tariff scheme to incentivise renewable gas projects.

Biogas projects can claim €150-175/megawatt hour (MWh), plus an additional bonus dependent on the feedstock, while biomethane projects are eligible for €64-95/MWh, plus a bonus and guarantee of origin scheme.  

The proposals announced last week also envisage simplification of the tariff support rules and enable intermediate power installations (between 500 and 1,000 kW) to participate much more easily than the current system, which requires small installations to bid through tenders.

The government also intends to speed up procedures for farmers, so that approvals can be granted in six months rather than the current 12, through a ‘one-stop shop’ that will deal with all the regulatory files relating to the anaerobic digesters, such as health, environmental impact, water, and construction codes.  

The French ecology ministry said it would widen the kinds of feedstocks that can be used to generate biomethane, such as agro-food waste, sewage treatment plant sludge or other bio-waste.

France’s biomethane production ranks far below that of Germany and the UK, and at the end of 2017 French production sites numbered just 44, with that number expected to rise to 100 by the end of 2018, according to France Biomethane.

By the end of last year the maximum annual injection capacity for all production sites was 682 Gigawatt hours (GWh).

This is far below the 50 TWh by 2028 targeted by gas networks (roughly equivalent to 30% of France's overall gas consumption), a threshold that is triple the target of 10% in France’s 2015 Energy Transition Act for Green Growth.

Infrastructure

French natural gas distributor GRDF said the ecology ministry’s proposals and recent infrastructure upgrades represent “major advances”. 

“The tariff rebate on the costs of biomethane connection to the distribution network and the opening of underground storage facilities with biomethane allow new projects to see the light of day,” GRDF added.  

However, the gas distributor said several measures are still needed, including as the extension of the purchase contract from 15 to 20 years at an identical tariff.

Earlier this year the government announced a €100m financial package to help fund biomethane projects, and an enhanced role for state-owned banks in funding expansion in a bid to lure more private finance for the sector. 

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