At a time when the territorial deployment of renewable energies (RE) is accelerating, the French Biodiversity Agency (OFB) has published a study, commissioned from the consultancy firm PwC, aimed at identifying and promoting the levers developed internationally for integrating biodiversity into solar photovoltaic (ground-mounted or floating) and onshore wind farm projects. After cataloging initiatives in the field in eight countries, this study examines 80 levers for action and avenues for consideration for their possible activation in France.
Renewable energies are at the heart of France's strategy to mitigate climate change and maintain its energy sovereignty. There has been strong growth in projects in recent years, and this is set to intensify further with the passing of the law on accelerating the production of renewable energies in March 2023. However, the development of these energy infrastructures requires a great deal of land, creating additional pressure on natural environments and the associated wildlife. According to the French National Biodiversity Observatory, the destruction of habitats and the fragmentation of ecosystems over the last decade, particularly for land-use planning purposes, are the most important drivers of biodiversity loss in France.
As part of a project financed by the European Union's LIFE program, OFB commissioned the consulting firm PwC and Sorbonne University's Institute for Ecological Transition to carry out a review of scientific knowledge and grey literature on the various levers available to reconcile energy transition and biodiversity protection. With the support of a monitoring committee, the study then identified over 80 international levers that could be activated in France by the entire chain of institutional, private and civil society players.
The vast majority of these levers are likely to be activated during the upstream planning and budgeting stages of projects, way before they are designed and appraised. An in-depth examination of 10 of them highlights the approaches, tools and criteria used, as well as their advantages and limitations. In all, 13 courses of action were put forward for discussion by the monitoring committee, nearly half of which have strong points of consensus.
Classified into three main categories, these levers for action are economic, technico-regal and socio-cognitive.
The study highlighted 21 international examples of economic levers to mitigate the impact of renewable energies on biodiversity. These can be grouped into the following four categories:
Of all the examples studied, three in particular caught the attention of the monitoring committee and were the subject of an in-depth study: "biodiversity" labels in renewable energy projects, the creation of specifications associated with financial support mechanisms for renewable energies (calls for tender, public calls for projects) and the inclusion of biodiversity in long-term electricity purchase agreements (Power Purchase Agreement, PPA).
With regard to technical and legislative levers, 31 examples were combed through to identify three types of action:
All these levers proved to be serious avenues of reflection for the monitoring committee.
Finally, an analysis of some thirty socio-cognitive levers shows the importance of integrating biodiversity into projects as a vector for the societal acceptability of renewable energies. Three main types of action were identified:
In view of the levers studied, it would seem essential to set up a French national resource center to disseminate scientifically robust information, share feedback, promote best practices and support the entire chain of players. The development of decision-making tools and the use of participatory science are also promising ways of reconciling the territorial challenges of preserving biodiversity and deploying renewable energies.
Through this benchmark, OFB aims to reconcile the challenges of energy transition and biodiversity protection, and to mobilize all the players involved, be they institutional, industrial, financial, associative or citizens.