French oil company Total believes wind energy must prove it is competitive by 2020 and solar power must do the same by 2050 if they are to avoid being sidelined, it said on Tuesday.
In France, Total aims to spend 500 million euros ($627 million) by 2010 on renewable energy sources, including 100 million euros in research and development partnerships.
“For renewable energies to become viable we need to see significant technological progress over this period,” Gilles Cochevelou, head of renewable energy at Total, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.
“But we will need all existing energy resources by 2050,” he said adding it was wrong at present to eliminate any single energy resource or push any single one forward.
“But for an energy source to be of interest, it will have to weigh at least 1 billion tonnes oil equivalent per year by 2050,” he added.
By comparison, fossil fuels currently contribute 8 billion tonnes of oil equivalent a year globally, and nuclear power just below 1 billion.
Wind power makes up 0.25 percent of French electricity consumption with a production capacity of 1,000 MW.
Since 2001 the French government has set fixed rates for land-produced wind power to encourage companies to invest in it.
Total plans together with RWE to install 90 MW of wind power in southwest France, with the aim of starting production by 2008, and it already has 12 MW installed in a pilot project in northern France.
“The reason it is so hard to get anything going is because of administrative hurdles,” Cochevelou said, adding that the company was only interested in investing in big projects.
He said he did not expect the price of wind turbines to continue its recent increase. “The price rise should not last and it mustn’t last.”
Total is also in the process of seeking building permits for an off-shore wind farm with a 120 MW capacity in partnership with Royal Dutch Shell Plc.
As for solar power, Cochevelou said Total aimed to boost the generated power of Photovoltec, its joint venture with Electrabel based in Belgium, to 80 megawatt peak (MWp) by 2008 from 20 (MWp).
He said Total expected a lot from solar energy, which is why this source is being given more time to develop.
“The sun is a natural champion and has great potential,” Cochevelou said.
A 2001 European Union directive requires EU members to bring green electricity up to 21 percent of their power mix by 2010.
Story by Muriel Boselli
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