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France trails half of EU on green energy

France produces just 14% of its electricity from renewable sources, far below its agreed target of 23% which it needs to meet by 2020. It trails half of Europe whose top scorers are Sweden on 52.1%, Finland 36.8% and Austria 32.6%.

The EU has said France, Britain and the Netherlands were in danger of failing to meet their objectives which were established in an  EU energy and climate package in 2008.

Solar energy in France has already beaten its target, but offshore wind farms will only get halfway there and onshore wind turbines are stymied by protest groups battling any new projects. Energy production  stands at 10,300MW with a target of 19,000MW.

Wind power faces extra complication with suspicion of collusion and conflict of interest as a wind farm can bring in between €3,000 and €5,000 in land rental a year per turbine.

Protesters lodged more than 100 complaints with, so far, about 15 councillors or mayors convicted of voting to support wind farms on their own land.These include three councillors in Blanzay, Vienne, who last year were each fined €3,000 (with €2,000 suspended) after voting on a project on their own land.

With locally elected officials already ‘in the frame’ Interior Minister Bernard Caze­neuve has been warned the problem could go further up the local government system. Côte-d’Or senator Anne Catherine Loisier has written to him of possible involvement by prefects.

Mr Cazeneuve clarified the situation saying any “elected representative can be convicted of collusion” if they receive or hold any interest in an operation in which they are involved politically.

Prefects give final approval for council applications and some have issued warnings to local officials over the problems of conflict of interest – but without mentioning wind farms.

Prominent wind farm protester Jean-Louis Butré, head of the Fédération Environnement Dur­able, said: “We estimate more than 30% of the wind farms (5,500 wind turbines) are currently installed on pieces of land which belong to elected representatives”.

It is known many people who own land will be involved with their local mairie but Delphine Lequatre, at wind farm promotion group Syndicat des Ener­gies Renouvelables, said a report by the corruption agency had shown “99.8% of councillors have not been linked to any collusion or conflict of interest investigations”.

As well as targeting possible corruption, protesters also aim to protect wildlife and as turbines cannot be sited within 20km of protected species’ nests they managed to get a project at Lunac, Hérault, suspended last month as golden eagles were found to be nesting nearby.

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