New French law seeks to cover large parking lots with solar panels

New legislation approved by the Senate last week requires all car parks with at least 80 spaces to be covered in solar panels.

This new law, which would apply to both new and existing parking lots, could generate as much power as 10 nuclear reactors, according to the government.

Never too late

The text of the law will be examined in the French Senate before being definitively adopted. Debates will begin next week in committees and in the first week of December in the National Assembly.

“We must not delay the implementation of the decarbonization of our country,” said Minister for Energy Transition Agnes Pannier-Runacher during a debate on the measure.

The country has long relied on the power of its nuclear park and generated a quarter of its electricity in 2021 from renewable sources, a lower share than elsewhere in Europe. The government wants to catch up. This new law is part of President Emmanuel Macron's strategy to multiply by 10 the production capacity of solar energy by 2050.

Penalties for non-compliance

The law also toughens penalties for non-compliance which presently stand at 10,000 euros per year.

The current penalty does not provide enough incentive, according to Senator Ronan Dantec, who said that it is only 2.5% of the cost of a panel installation for an 80-space car park (400,000 euros).

“The new legislation provides a compulsory and monthly sanction, and no longer annual, based on the number of places equipped (50 euros per place). Thus, an 80-space car park that does not comply with the new legislation would be liable to 48,000 euros in penalties each year,” Zahra Aitzegagh, vice-president of the Commission for Regional Planning and Sustainable Development, told Anadolu Agency.

New obligations worry large retailers

Along with airports, hypermarkets and shopping centers are at the forefront of this new climate battle. Owners of parking lots with more than 10,000 square meters would have three years to comply, while owners of lots with 2,500 to 10,000 would have five years, according to the legislation of which Anadolu Agency obtained a copy.

Distributors welcomed the legislation on “the acceleration of the use of renewable energies,” but at what price would the electricity is bought?

In fact, the level of state subsidy may vary.

“Distributors must already support 4 billion euros in investments linked to measures in favor of the climate, including 500 million for the installation of electric charging stations,” said Thierry Cotillard, former president of French supermarket chain Intermarche.

Besides, the installation of solar panels has a significant cost. It takes on average between 9,000 and 13,000 euros for solar panels. To this must be added the cost of installing these panels and the inverter, the small box that converts the electricity produced to the network.

That means that solar panels can take time to be profitable. "It can go from 8 to 20 years," according to interior designer Dorothee Delaye.

Senator Remy Pointereau said the new law would immediately benefit production lines located outside the European Union.

“I have the impression that all of Asia, and in particular China, must be delighted to see that we are going to put in perhaps thousands of hectares of photovoltaic panels, which will be produced in China, in Malaysia, in the Philippines. Our trade balance will still take a big hit!” he said.

Unconvinced by this argument, ecologist Ronan Dantec replied: “I think that we are looking for any possible and imaginable argument against the development of renewable energies in our country […] I hope no one at Christmas buys toys made in China!”

Promising examples

SNCF, the national state-owned railway company, announced the installation of one million square meters of solar panels in its stations from 2030 to 2032.

“It is really important for us to develop solar energy, a renewable energy,” said Marlene Dolveck, general manager of SNCF, who wants “green stations” to consume less and to phase out the fossil fuel industry.

The electricity produced will be resold to the public electricity distribution network, but not injected directly into the stations.

The photovoltaic power plants, installed in all regions, will produce the equivalent of 15% of the consumption of the 3,000 French stations, according to SNCF.

In April, Disneyland Paris started building a massive 46,000 photovoltaic solar panels on its main parking lot, which has 11,200 spaces.

And that's not all. The most famous amusement park in the world claimed that it will have built more than 82,000 solar panels by 2023. Decidedly, Disneyland Paris will be one of the largest canopies in Europe with electricity that can power a city of more than 17,000 people.

Source: Anadolu Agency