The ESTER project: towards local and renewable electricity at competitive rates
The Poitou-Charentes administrative Region, Solairedirect, an integrated operator for the production of solar electricity and Sorégies (86) and Séolis (79), the two local distribution companies (LDC), have joined forces to create the dynamics of solar electricity production promoted by the Semi-Public Company called Ester Poitou-Charentes (Solar Electricity of the Territories). The goal of this company is to develop the capacity of photovoltaic production and to stimulate the local solar electricity supply, within a long term perspective, in order to protect the territory from the unavoidable rise of the price of energy at a national level.
An original association of various actors
The SEML ESTER POITOU-CHARENTES was created in 2011 and is co-owned by the region (65%) and Solairedirect (35%); the SEML purchases shares of the companies involved in the project. These companies are in charge of the development, the financing, the construction, the exploitation and the maintenance of ground photovoltaic parks in the region. The Region has become a solar electricity producer via the SEML ESTER.
The rates applicable to the obligation to purchase electricity are falling; this innovative model for a local and competitive solar electricity, resulted form pooling the Region’s vision, SolaireDirect's integrated model and the expertise of the two LDCs. Within the context, this enterprise is creating new truly sustainable dynamics for the French solar energy industry.
This operation implements the Region’s determination (as expressed in 2009), to develop 3.8 GW solar photovoltaic energy in Poitou-Charente by 2030, and to consider creating a photovoltaic module factory in the region, if the volumes are sufficient. The project companies in charge of the conception and development of the photovoltaic systems create local socio-economic benefits by working with local companies for the construction and the exploitation of these infrastructures.
A contractual model for the sales of competitive solar energy
The partnership has created the opportunity for innovative economic models. The project companies will sell their electricity in compliance with the rates applicable to the obligation to purchase electricity (Between 15 and 20 years, according to the evolution of the wholesale market price), then, with the mutual agreement sales contract after the purchase obligation period to the end of the operation of the infrastructure. The LDCs Sorégies and Séolis will be the purchasers of this electricity in the long term (30 years). Both have a commitment with SolaireDirect to buy all the electricity produced within the framework of a program that the SEML Poitou-Charentes contributes to. This whole program has planned the construction of 60MW of solar parks over the 2012-2015 period. This contract has already fixed the sales conditions for solar electricity at a price below that of the wholesale market, thus enabling the Poutou-Charente territories covered to benefit from a competitive and cost-controlled energy.
Added value creation at all levels
This is how the SEML ESTER can provide local and competitive solar energy, by promoting: the development of energy autonomy for territories, the stimulation of local economy and sustainable cost control for electricity in the long term. This example is innovative; for the first time, a mutual agreement contract for the sale of solar electricity has been signed in Europe, based on the market price. This contract is based on a price mechanism with a starting level of €108/MWh, so a rate below the price paid by Consumers in France.
Source: “Photovoltaïque et collectivités territoriales, Guide pour une approche de proximité”, ADEME, being published