Wind power would be competitive: a misconception that is based on unspoken words



The government decided last year to multiply onshore wind power by 2 by 2028. Launched at the end of 2020, the Action Ecologie association, which today brings together “more than 10,000 members from all over France”, comes to to publish a report dedicated to this renewable energy entitled “Wind turbines: financial pit, ecological disaster”. More and more articles are highlighting the competitive nature of wind power, the cost of which is closer to that of other energy sources. Action Écologie focused in particular on the question of the cost of this energy in its study in April. We note that wind power is much more expensive than it is claimed. Wind energy is not free. To say that it would be silly not to take advantage of the wind since it is free is to forget three realities. First, coal, gas and oil are just as free. These resources are also the product of nature which is never remunerated for these services. Second, these resources are free as long as they are in your territory. As soon as they are with the neighbor, you have to pay an exploitation fee. And for both wind and fossil fuels, countries happen to be unequally endowed. Third, capturing such a resource to transform it into usable energy comes at a cost. Wind energy is therefore no more free than fossil fuels. Wind energy is also touted as inexpensive. Here again, this is forgetting several realities highlighted by our study. First of all, large companies like Engie would not risk themselves in this energy sector if the purchase price of wind power was subject to market competition. It is a purchase price guaranteed by the State which has enabled the development of wind power in France compared to other energies. The additional cost is financed through the Contribution to the Public Service of Electricity (CSPE), a tax paid by all final consumers of electricity, in other words, by all. This is not even sufficient: in 2013, the State had to compensate 4.9 billion euros of loss at EDF which is responsible for buying back the electricity produced by the wind turbines at the fixed purchase price. Then, to ensure the competitiveness of wind power, it turned out to be necessary to penalize fossil fuels by taxing them via the Internal Consumption Tax on Energy Products. It is understandable to include the cost of CO2 emissions in the price of fossil fuels – although the Yellow Vests movement has shown that it is unwise to charge those who have been made dependent on these energies. The carbon tax is however only one component of the TIPCE. Its real purpose is to lead to an increase in the price of fossil fuels to make them less competitive with wind power. Thus, the wind energy sector is supported by a guaranteed purchase price while the fossil fuel sector is penalized by a tax. In both cases, it is the consumer who pays. If wind power production is gradually gaining in real competitiveness, the consumer does not find his way there since environmental taxation increased by 40% between 2007 and 2016. Finally, accounting for electricity production costs from wind power does not take into account the intermittent nature of this energy source. Everyone has already seen wind turbines at a standstill. For our fridges to operate 24 hours a day, it is necessary for other energy sources to take over when there is not enough wind in France. In other words, the installation of wind turbines is not imaginable without the existence of other sources of energy. Denmark, the European champion in installed wind power per capita, exports its wind power at low prices when it overproduces and uses hydropower from the Nordic countries when there is no wind. Therefore, the cost of wind should also factor in the cost of generating electricity from other sources. Wind energy is not without impact on other economic sectors. Starting with tourism. The adage is known: Wind turbines everyone is for, but not close to home – due to the visual impact and the loss of value for real estate. This truth also applies to tourists who abandon accommodation near a wind turbine. More broadly, the ever-increasing dimensions of wind turbines make them unpretentious monuments that attract little tourists and remove them from our landscapes shaped by generations and which strongly contribute to making France the number one tourist destination in the world. As for off-shore wind power, which is starting to develop in France, it could prove fatal for fishing. The issues of access and impact on fish resources are not resolved. Fearing a privatization of their traditional workspace, the fishermen of Côtes-d’Armor broke off discussions with Ailes Marines, a subsidiary of the Spanish giant Iberdrola. For wind turbines with a lifespan of a few decades, an economy passed down from generation to generation could be weakened. Faced with this observation, Action Écologie, particularly attached to the transmission of our freedoms, our traditions and our landscapes, warns the French about the financial burden that the development of wind power places on taxpayers and the risk that ” it brings to the fishing sector, know-how and interpersonal skills passed down from generation to generation, and to the tourism sector to which the beauty of our landscapes contributes.