Aude: how 72 municipalities helped draw up the first renewable energy acceleration map

Aude: how 72 municipalities helped draw up the first renewable energy acceleration map
Aude: how 72 municipalities helped draw up the first renewable energy acceleration map

On April 15, the Aude prefecture published the decree approving the mapping of departmental acceleration zones “for the establishment of land-based renewable energy production facilities”. 72 municipalities submitted their copies before the deadline of March 15, making it possible to define spaces a priori favorable to the development of renewable energies.

Why these areas?

Promulgated in March 2023, the law “acceleration of the production of renewable energies” (APER) made “territorial planning of renewable energies (EnR) a priority”. And insisted on “the crucial role of local authorities and local elected officials in terms of regional planning”. It remained to give them the means to act: a voice given by the establishment of acceleration zones (ZAenR). It is up to voluntary communities to deliberate, after consultation with residents, on the areas where they primarily wish to see renewable energy projects implemented, specifying the preferred type of energy (photovoltaic, wind, geothermal, biomass, hydroelectricity). ,…).

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With some guidelines to follow: “prevent and control the dangers or disadvantages that would result from the implementation of RE” ; “take into account the necessary diversification of renewable energies, depending on the potential of the territory concerned and the renewable energies present” ; “valorize areas of economic activity with potential for renewable energy development”. These ZAEnR, approved in Aude by prefectural decree on April 15, will then pass through the filter of the regional energy committee (CRE) in Occitanie, a body working to achieve the objective of a “energy mix integrating 40% renewable energies by 2030”.

What advantages?

By consulting residents, the definition of these zones seems to free itself from 1er obstacles for any project: acceptability. A question which, from the Montagne Noire to Corbières, regularly comes to the forefront when citizens, informed at the last moment of a project, stand up against the installation of wind turbines or photovoltaic panels. No surprise, then, with these areas made public. With the caveat that these will not be exclusive zones: projects may be authorized outside the defined sectors.

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Acceleration of renewable energies in Aude: the switch between wind power and photovoltaics confirmed by the first departmental mapping

The fact remains that with this system, the government is promising facilitation. Because for installations carried outside areas, and beyond a certain power, a project committee will be obligatory, with a 1D meeting to assess its relevance, and a 2e so that the wearer responds to the recommendations and vigilance issued. Conversely, ZAEnR projects can hope, according to state services in Seine-Maritime, “a reduction in investigation times to 3-4 months maximum and 15 days for the submission of the investigating commissioner’s report during the public inquiry”. Without forgetting the “benefits” promised “in calls for tenders from the Energy Regulatory Commission”and “financial benefits”still to be clarified.

What limits?

By examining the 263 ZAEnRs in Aude more closely, something becomes obvious. Many municipalities have integrated sites where projects are already planned or underway. This is the case for areas dedicated to wind power: from Conilhac-Corbières to Saint-Papoul via Villesèque-des-Corbières or Tuchan, the ZAEnR defined concerns repowering. Another example of limits, in Armissan, where the municipality simply included the entire 1,243 hectares of municipal territory to define an area where roof photovoltaics could be accelerated.

Another illustration, in Carcassonne. If reservations, during the consultation, were expressed in particular for the site of the Chapter quarry, the inclusion of the sectors of Romieu, Montredon, Maquens and La Cavayère was obvious, according to the municipality, as attests the deliberation voted on March 14: “The PLU, approved in 2017, identified 4 zones classified to be urbanized by renewable energies. These zones could be identified as acceleration zones since three of them are under study and will see the light of day within a few years.”

It remains to be hoped that the majority of municipalities have not limited themselves to cataloging certainties, have not overestimated capacities and have played the game of foresight well. Without forgetting that the definition of these zones is in no way a guarantee of the development of renewable energies: in the exercise of defining the sites envisaged for photovoltaics, the DDTMs were asked to identify the zones with “high issue”, whether it concerns heritage or biodiversity. Result: 58 of the 120 ZAEnR planned for ground-mounted photovoltaics (6,300 of the 11,400 ha in total) are thus concerned. Enough to remain cautious about the future of potential projects.

What consequences?

On December 22, 2023, two days after the installation of CRE Occitanie, Pierre-André Durand, prefect of the Occitanie region, recalled: “The first task of the CRE will be to issue an opinion (before June 7, 2024, Editor’s note) on renewable energy acceleration zones, defined by the municipalities. If the identified areas make it possible to achieve regional objectives, departmental mapping could be carried out from 2024.” What objectives? The prefect estimated that the production of renewable energies in 2020 in Occitania at 29 TWh (terawatt-hour), all sectors combined (hydroelectricity, wood, photovoltaic solar, onshore and offshore wind, and biogas): a figure which will have to be more than double by 2028 (60 TWh) for “meet the objectives set this time at the national level by the multi-annual energy program”, this PPE which is also long awaited. Said differently by the regional prefect: “Concretely, the number of renewable energy project installations must be multiplied by 4 in Occitanie compared to past years, from 2023.”

But on whom will the effort rest? This is the question that still remains asked, while, in 2022, renewable energies had made it possible to produce 1.5 TWh of electricity in Aude, according to the Data and Statistical Studies Department of the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Less than Aveyron (3 TWh), but as much as Gard, very close to Haute-Garonne (1.6 TWh) and much more than Hérault (1.3 TWh). But, by June, if the CRE considers that the 13 maps are not likely to satisfy the regional ambition for 2028, the prefectures will ask the municipalities of Occitanie to identify additional acceleration zones. With, in Aude, undoubtedly, the need for more than 72 municipalities to get involved: in Narbonne, where no deliberations were taken, the municipality specified on May 7 that“reflection is still underway for possible participation in this system”. With an incentive not to be neglected: the communities which define ZAEnR will then have the right to identify exclusion zones by RES sector “with regard to agricultural, natural, landscape and heritage issues”.

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