CASE. Why Occitanie is at the forefront in the development of solar energy

CASE. Why Occitanie is at the forefront in the development of solar energy

Le photovoltaïque investit de nouveaux champs, notamment à travers l'agrivoltaïsme, pour lequel l'Occitanie a de nombreux atouts. MAXPPP – JC Tardivon

With a total fleet of 3,630 MW as of December 31, the region is the second French region, after Nouvelle Aquitaine, to have a large capacity for photovoltaic energy production.

Occitanie, land of clean electricity: the slogan would not be usurped if it were to be carried as a standard of common will, starting with the political will. According to the latest "Panorama of renewable electricity 2023", published by the ORE Agency, Enedis, RTE and the Renewable Energy Union (SER), "the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region remains the region with the largest installed base, with 4 489 MW, followed by the Occitanie region, which hosts a fleet of 3 630 MW& ;quot;.

The results are flattering. Especially since Occitanie was, last year, also the second region in France in terms of growth in its installed base, with 479 megawatts (MW) installed. "Occitanie is one of the most dynamic regions in terms of photovoltaic energy, concedes Jules Nyssen, president of the SER. The solar phenomenon is the simplest thing to develop.

"The region has very beautiful nuggets"

The region also has another advantage. Thanks in particular to the Montpellier region, which has seen and still sees the presence, on its territory, of particularly dynamic companies in terms of renewable energies. The first was La Compagnie du Vent, created in 1989 with the ambition of developing wind energy. Under the leadership of Jean-Michel Germa, its founder, in 1991 it installed its first wind turbine in Port-la-Nouvelle, in Aude.

"This is the great luck of this region, continues Jules Nyssen, who was also, by the past, director of services for the City of Montpellier. It has some very nice gems, like La Compagnie du Vent, bought by Engie (Engie Green, whose head office is in Montpellier, Editor's note), but also Qair, Valeco, Arkolia,  etc.". Montpellier, it’is even "the cradle of renewable energies".

An objective to multiply the production of clean electricity by 8

When she arrived at the head of the Occitanie Region, Carole Delga understood the whole point of initiating a proactive policy in this area. The political boost, while not the only condition, makes it possible to accelerate development. The Region decrees, following a study carried out with the consulting company Alcimed, its desire to become a positive energy Region. Thanks to the development of electricity production from photovoltaics.

The Derbi pole, the starting point

The creation, in 2005 – Perpignan, the center of competitiveness Derbi can be considered as the starting point of the adventure of renewable energies in the region, and in particular that of photovoltaic. The cluster brings together research laboratories and businesses, with the support of public authorities. "Derbi relied" on the advent of new solar power, comments André Joffre, its president. This is just before the administration makes the decision to inject electricity into the city. from photovoltaics in the networks, with the establishment of remuneration.

For André Joffre, the strength of Occitanie, is first of all “great availability” of land, particularly agricultural land with a lot of wasteland resulting from grubbing up. It's obviously the sunshine: "we have 30% more production with the same installation at home than in Paris region. And, finally, there is a whole ecosystem of businesses and innovation. "EDF Renewables is à Béziers and Engie Green à Montpellier, without forgetting the numerous engineering schools. But the must is that it is "the only engineering school on renewable energies, – Perpignan", the result of an association between the University of Perpignan" Catalan and the INSA of Toulouse. The stakes are high: "we estimate that Occitanie will need, " by 2030, 50,000 jobs in this field"?

Thus, the objective set is to achieve a production of 7 Gigawatts (GW) by 2030 and 15 GW by 2050. That is, a multiplication, respectively , by 4, then by 8 in the production of clean electricity. All this while relying on the development and structuring of an innovative and job-creating regional photovoltaic sector.

A "local appropriation" national ambitions

For Maël Lagarde, general director of Nîmes VSB Énergies nouvelles (French subsidiary of a German VSB group), the region's assets are the result of the combination of several factors. "The availability of the sun resource, a strong regional political will, a network of regional actors which make it possible to develop clean energy, and a national will, which declines regionally and which allows local appropriation", he explains.

The sector benefits from a legal framework on which it relies. "We have laws that encourage projects, insists Franck Baudin, deputy general manager of the Hérault group Arkolia. When customers look at the level of electricity prices reached in recent years, they take the plunge and invest in installations. In terms of costs, it becomes more profitable. "The only problem is the deadlines, there are still administrative burdens", complete, at Arkolia, Renaud Cazenave, the regional sales manager.

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