Priority Export Family: “Renewable Energies”


Renewable energy is experiencing a worldwide boom due to the drop in the cost of technologies and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, renewable energy sources (RES) accounted for 17.5% of total final energy consumption worldwide, and this figure should reach 50% by 2040. Confirming its leadership in the fight against climate change, France has set itself the goal of ensuring that 32% of final energy consumption is from RES by 2030, building on its expertise and internationally recognized businesses in the field.

The economic challenges linked to the positioning of French companies from this sector on foreign markets are significant. Since 2018, French businesses have completed more than 80 projects in at least 44 countries (solar power plants, wind farms and more), representing a total investment of over €5 billion.

In this context, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs has appointed a Renewable Energy Exports Unifier. The Unifier’s role is to promote and structure French products and services internationally.

Renewable energies: a forward-looking sector

The renewable energy sector is growing around the world due to the development of solar and wind capacities. Between 2009 and 2018, global installed renewable energy capacity grew by 100 GW per year, to reach 1,179 GW in 2018. This growth should continue between 2019 and 2030, resulting in additional capacity of 2,000 GW, with 60% from solar energy sources [1].

This growth can be explained by the role played by RES in economic, environmental, health and sovereignty issues:
• RES are the main way in which the 195 countries (including the European Union) which signed the Paris Agreement in December 2015 will meet their greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets.
• They help diversify the energy mix, increase States’ energy independence and energy supply security.
• They are now competitive energy sources which create local jobs, as a result of their spectacular drop in price.

France’s international position in the renewable energy sector

France has an extensive network of start-ups, SMEs, mid-caps and major groups with internationally recognized expertise. In addition to being positioned across all renewable energy sectors (wind energy, solar energy, hydroelectricity, biomass, geothermal energy, marine energy, etc.), French businesses are active in innovative sectors combining cutting-edge technologies and industry, such as storage and smart grids. With the second-largest maritime area in the world, France is also involved in developing the high-potential marine renewable energy industry (fixed and floating offshore wind turbines, ocean thermal energy, hydropower turbines, etc.).

France has significant renewable power generation capacity (50.5 GW), and ranks third among EU Member States, behind Germany and Italy. This position has allowed French businesses to develop and showcase their projects nationally, to encourage exporting French expertise.

Since 2018, French businesses have completed more than 80 projects [2] in 44 countries (solar power plants, wind farms and more). Over the past 18 months, RES have resulted in almost €5 billion in investment and 3,000 jobs. Promoting this expertise abroad is a key challenge in a highly competitive market. For this reason, a Renewable Energy Exports Unifier has been appointed.

The role of the Renewable Energy Exports Unifier

Set up in 2012, the “Unifiers” system involves shaping a partnership between the State and a prominent private-sector figure to carry out communication and bring together a sector-specific package aimed at foreign markets.

Appointed by the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Unifier is charged with promoting the French renewable energy industry abroad, and identifying tangible ways of improving the industry’s collective effectiveness. They have three roles:

  • Advise administrations responsible for external trade on relevant issues in the area (advisory role);
  • Provide a high-level presence for priority projects abroad (representative role);
  • Unite the renewable energies ecosystem to encourage products and services bringing together several companies: “integrated offers” (operational role).

With the support of the Economic Diplomacy Directorate, they work in synergy with the exports contact point of the industry strategic committee for “new energy systems industries” (CSF NSE) as well as with institutional partners and competent actors on export issues. The Unifier’s mission is governed by a roadmap with the following main themes:

1. Improve the visibility of French products and services in terms of renewable energies and promote them internationally;
2. improve market knowledge and encourage setting up French businesses in priority locations;
3. promote synergies among renewable energy sector actors;
4. encourage the coordination of mechanisms and actions to support exports and introduce these initiatives to businesses, including in the regions;
5. Adapt semi-public financing mechanisms to new market conditions and French products and services.

Support for exports and energy transition: the example of the energy transition club in West Africa

West Africa has numerous market opportunities for French companies from the energy transition sectors (including renewables, smart electricity grids, storage, energy efficiency, using waste as an energy source). The countries of the region have adopted ambitious paths in terms of energy transition, the development of renewable energies and integration with electricity networks. The energy access market also has strong potential and French companies have genuine expertise to meet these specific challenges.

To unite locally-available French products and services and promote them to clients in the region, in November 2020 France launched an energy transition club in West Africa (TEAO). Based at the French Embassy in Dakar, the TEAO is run by the Embassy’s economic service in close coordination with the regional economic service based in Abidjan, as well as its private sector members.

This action, carried out in close partnership with the CSF NSE and the Renewable Energy Trade Association (SER), is one of the priorities of the Unifier’s roadmap. It contributes to the support provided by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs for relaunching exports and helps strengthen economic cooperation links between France and West African countries.

The launch of the TEAO club builds on the 3 “renewable energy” clubs already launched in 2016 and 2017:

  • For the Middle-East, based in Abu Dhabi
  • For East Africa and the Indian Ocean, based in Nairobi
  • For Indonesia, based in Jakarta

Support from the Ministry for the renewable energy sector during the COVID-19 crisis

The French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs is supporting the renewable energy exports sector in order to face the COVID-19 crisis. Various actions are underway, including daily contact with companies and preparing to relaunch the sector. To this end, the Unifier’s roadmap, in line with that of the CSF NSE exports component, is intended to fuel discussions on relaunching the sector.

For more information:

Updated: Nov. 2020

[1Sources: International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook (IEA WEO) 2018, International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) 2019

[2Sources: the French Renewable Energy Trade Association (SER) and the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME)