By De-Regulating Wind Energy, Parliamentarians Are Threatening Heritage

A view of the Cathedral of Coutances
with a wind turbine in the background
Photo : D. R.

The new French Minister of Culture had started out her term in what appeared to be a promising way and we had heartily commended her initial decisions. Since then, the announcement of the cultural budget, followed by its detailed presentation, showing considerable cuts to the share assigned to heritage and museums, has seriously dampened our cautious enthusiasm. However, we were still under the impression, despite all of the above, that there existed a firm determination to see that the laws were respected and to reconsider all the measures attacking heritage initiated by the previous government (notably the elimination of the ZPPAUP). A major heritage law has even been announced for 2013.

But what good is a heritage law if, at the same time, bills against heritage are voted in during the middle of the night by a handful of parliamentarians manipulated by a particularly powerful lobby interested only in the promising potential profit (for public finances).
Let us be clear here : although their environmental aspect has not been incontrovertibly demonstrated, we are not necessarily against wind energy per se. A reasonable development of wind turbines on French soil is possible and, we would even say, inevitable given the widespread belief in their efficiency. Fighting these wind mills would be a quixotic venture.

However, what we see rising on the horizon, and has already started in fact (ill.) is anarchical development, a senseless rise in these constructions for the sole profit of their producers who do not give a hoot about the beauty of our landscapes or heritage.

The night of 4 to 5 October, three amendments proposed by EELV (the Green party) were voted in when the session was in fact supposed to debate energy prices. All three pave the way for a total deregulation of the sector. The few deputies who are not members of the presidential majority (UMP, centrists and even the Front de gauche [far left]) left the Parliament to protest this forced approval. The UMP deputy, Martial Saddier used some strong words, according to the press, which we adhere to as well : "Do not transform at 2 am at night, at the end of the week, France into an immense ventilator !".

If this bill is voted into law, the provisions as they stand today would :

- authorize the construction of individual wind turbines ; until now, they had to be built in groups of at least five. Once built, whether there is one or five, the harm is done. This increased their efficiency while diminishing their impact on the landscape. From now on, five wind turbines can be scattered around various points, increasing visual pollution (and, we should remember, the harmful effects to birds and bats).

- permit the elimination of Zones de Développement Eolien which today limit, though in an imperfect way, the installation of wind turbines.

- ease elegibility conditions for repurchasing electricity tariffs ; yet, it has been proven many times over that this compulsory repurchase tariff for EDF was too high and made these projects profitable when they should not have been, to the detriment of general interest, transforming windfarms into state revenus whose profit is shared by the developers.

- ease the coastal law for the DOM-TOM [French overseas departments and territories].

Knowing that the Code du patrimoine in France does not include any sort of protection for the remarkable views on listed monuments or landscapes as long as the construction in question is located 500 meters away ; that, already, many projects, even under the current law, will ruin our landscapes, we can see the dramatic consequences of the above measures which leave developers free rein in doing whatever they want, wherever they want, or just about.

Alas, a new battle has started in the war against French heritage. What will the Ministry of Culture do this time ? Once again, it opposes only silence [1]. Frédéric Mitterand, the former Minister, stated unofficially (we heard him say it) : "I hate wind turbines". This however does not constitute an applicable policy and did not result in an official public position or a wish to pass a law. We are thus awaiting for Aurélie Filippetti to step in. Does she wish to protect national heritage ? This is a perfect chance for her to prove it.
In the meantime, associations, as always, will attempt with their limited means to protest. Les Vieilles Maisons Françaises, through their president Philippe Toussaint, sent us the following message : "It is unthinkable, for the sake of supposedly - according to Mrs. Batho, Minister of Ecology - saving some jobs (something which has not yet been proved) to wreck our landscapes, ruin the environment of our citizens and endanger the attractiveness of our country, and with it tourism. This is in fact overall deregulation".

Version française

Didier Rykner, lundi 8 octobre 2012


[1] We received no responses to our questions on the subject, which were addressed to them, it is true, Friday afternoon.

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