Book Club

The Chair read for you : Le vent nous portera : le pari gagnant de la transition énergétique de J-Y. Grandidier et G.Luneau [🇫🇷]

Published on 27 May 2019

Despite its privileged geographical location, both in terms of wind and solar potential and interconnections, France lags behind its European counterparts in the deployment of renewable energies. Jean-Yves Grandidier and Gilles Luneau, in their book Le vent nous portera: le pari gagnant de la transition énergétique [1] , detail the obstacles to the development of renewable energies, with a particular focus on wind energy.

 The book begins by briefly presenting technologies based on renewable sources. From a practical point of view, this first part highlights the fact that wind, solar and hydropower have a major role to play in the energy transition. The scale factor they benefit from allows them to be economically competitive with fossil and nuclear energy, when other renewable energies are more limited although useful for specific uses, particularly in island areas.

 The authors argue that solutions to a 100% renewable energy mix exist, as evidenced by the immense progress made in wind and solar technologies. But a transition to a totally green energy is made difficult by a certain “fossil culture”, giving rise to blockages from the administration, fossil and nuclear lobbies, and from part of civil society, which is poorly aware of the issue of energy transition. In the second part of the book, the authors recall the laws that apply to park developers and the context in which they came into force.

They explain how legislation contributed until the beginning of the 2010 decade to restrict wind energy development: conditioning by the Grenelle II law of the ZDE (Wind Energy Development Zones) to a minimum of 5 masts, excluding the most modest projects; classification of wind farms as ICPE (Installation Classified for the Protection of the Environment), facilitating appeals; or incompatibility between the Littoral law and the Grenelle II law on the distance to be respected between wind and housing. While some of these obstacles have been removed successively by the Brottes Act (2013) and the Energy Transition Act (2015), this allows the authors to rebound on substantive issues, from the pro-nuclear tradition anchored in the political sphere to the role played by the army in limiting the height of the masts. They also intend to break certain preconceived ideas about wind power, such as its harmful effects on wildlife, the noise pollution it causes or its necessary coupling with carbonaceous energy.

Jean-Yves Grandidier, with his extensive experience in project development, gives pride of place to the participatory development of the renewable park, supporting his point with concrete examples and underlining the importance of local authorities and citizen participation. This is an opportunity for the authors to reflect on the concepts of public service and general interest, historically represented by state monopolies, as has been the case for electricity. They advocate a more global vision of climate issues – a kind of supranational general interest – coupled with territorial management of energy services that would allow the development of renewables that integrate local specificities.

Convinced that in 2050, the relationship between men and energy will have been drastically modified by the climate emergency, Jean-Yves Grandidier and Gilles Luneau propose a critical and pedagogical point of view. A reading of interest for anyone who wants to know the workings of renewable energy development and the obstacles, administrative and other, that actors in the energy transition have to face.

Valentin Lignau : Research Fellow on « Patents as a measure and a driver of a low-carbon innovation policy »

[1] Editions ALTERNATIVES-Gallimard, 2017, 192p.