France to convert 1.8GW to biomass by 2027

France will convert its two coal-fired power plants with a combined capacity of 1.8GW to biomass by 2027, French President Emmanuel Macron said in a televised interview recently.

Macron said the government would increase its annual spending for the green transition to EUR 40bn (USD 42.5bn) in 2024, from EUR 33bn this year. A portion of this funding will support the conversion of France’s last two coal-fired plants into biomass.

The French government last month passed a decree allowing coal-fired plants to operate until the end of 2024, in order “to ensure the security of power supply in the current exceptional situation”. However, after Macron’s comments, it has to clarify whether the units will continue to burn coal or co-fire with biomass from 2024-27 as conversion works are carried out.

The conversion will bolster France’s industrial biomass consumption, probably making it a top consumer in northwest Europe. France burned 480,000t of industrial wood pellets last year, according to preliminary data by industry association Bioenergy Europe, primarily for district heating. Its residential pellets consumption was 2.6mn t.

Macron’s announcement follows the European Parliament’s formal adaptation of the EU’s revised renewable energy directive (RED III), which reaffirmed biomass’ role as a renewable energy source as Europe phases out fossil fuels.

The French environment ministry launched a call for the expression of interest for projects transforming coal-fired plants into biomass sites in February 2022.

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