(Dow Jones)–The French government announced Monday the launch of a EUR10 billion tender offer to build five off-shore wind farms, in a bid to muscle up the country’s renewable energy industry and reduce its longstanding reliance on atomic power.
The wind farms, which will comprise some 1,200 wind turbines off the west coast of France, should generate 3.5% of the country’s energy output, the French ecology and industry ministries said in a joint statement. The farms will come online between 2015 and 2020.
The long-awaited tender is part of a wider government push to make renewable energy account for 23% of total energy production by 2020. It also comes as France’s government is under increasing pressure to reduce its dependence on nuclear power.
Atomic energy generates around 80% of France’s electricity needs, but following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima and with the 2012 presidential elections looming, political support for the energy source is beginning to waver.
“The aim is to create a French industry and gain a leadership position in the world,” French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said in a statement. “We are calling for industrials to mobilize to create a subsidiary of excellence.”
French energy company GDF-Suez (GDZ.FR) said last week it is teaming up with construction and concession company Vinci SA (DG.FR) and nuclear technology group Areva SA (AREVA.FR) to bid in the French government tender for an offshore wind farm project.
The partnership is bidding for three of the five suitable areas identified by the French government, GDF-Suez said in a statement. The three areas, which could represent as much as 1,750 MW of offshore wind power capacity, are Dieppe-Le Treport, Courseulles-sur-Mer and Fecamp, all located in northern France.
On Friday, French Industry Minister Eric Besson announced a study would be conducted on France’s energy mix in 2050. One of the options being looked at is a full exit from nuclear energy by 2040. Speaking on French radio Mr. Besson said he personally felt nuclear energy should account for two thirds of France’s electricity output.
-By Max Colchester, Wall Street Journal