Funding for national solidarity used to block the energy transition on the île de Sein

 A meeting of the board of governors of Ile de Sein Énergies in front of the island’s lighthouse

A meeting of the board of governors of Ile de Sein Énergies in front of the island’s lighthouse

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Far from the continent, to which it is not connected for its electrical power, the île de Sein, to the west of Brittany, derives 100% of its energy for heating, lighting, fishing, and transport from fuel oil.

The island benefits from a unique situation in terms of energy, however: composed of both earth and sea, it possesses land and sea-based renewable energy resources - wind, sun, sea currents, and tides - that are increasingly well developed and complete one another and that enable the island to envisage becoming energy independent.


What follows is a report by Patrick Saultier, engineer-consultant and director of the local company Ile de Sein Energies, which has developed an energy transition project for the Ile de Sein, during an interview in the television studios of the BE Positive salon in Lyon.

Note: The video of the account by Yannick Régnier, director of Energy and Territorial Projects at the CLER, a network for energy transition, is the subject of another article.

Participation, environment, innovation, local development: it's all good for transition !

Full of boundless energy and aspiring to participate in their own development, the residents of Sein have created a stockholder-owned, local company, Île de Sein Énergies (IDSE). They hope to conduct the energy transition of their island in all its dimensions: the control of consumption and demand as well as a smart energy network, and the production of renewable wind, hydraulic, and solar energy and its storage. This project could be one of the founding elements of the future territorial project for the island and be associated with economic activity and jobs.

As an unconnected island and due to its specific energy situation, the Île de Sein is an ideal site for experimenting. It also offers a location in which technological and organizational innovation can be tried without any risk to the continental network while also ensuring significant financial savings for the community.

A model of solidarity to be visited

The Public Service Electricity Contribution (CSPE) is paid by every French electrical consumer as part of his or her bill. In particular the funds finance the equalization of prices that allows universal access to electricity at the same rate. This mechanism of solidarity on the continent in favor of the islands currently allows residents of Sein to pay one-eighth of the actual production costs of their electricity, which is produced using electric generators and from imported fuel oil. Today, French consumers as a whole are are paying an exorbitant price to pollute the island

The annual cost of rate equalization for the non-connected islands has been constantly rising since its creation. The Energy Regulation Commission (Commission de Régulation de l’Énergie or CRE) assesses the share dedicated to fuel as reaching at €1.65 billion for 2014. This national solidarity should be a lever for the islands’ energy autonomy rather than remaining a tool that encourages the maintenance of the current system, based on imported fossil fuels.

Transition energies must be freed !

Today, the Ile de Sein Energy project has to face the inertia of the established energy system as well as a number of administrative and legal constraints (the monopoly of the EDF group on energy, and a decree limiting variable renewable energy to 30% on the active power network). The law on energy transition, which is currently being drafted and will soon be debated, must create an opportunity to introduce the means to carry out this project.

The case of the île de Sein illustrates the need to allow territories to implement solutions adapted to their environment. The President of the Republic announced, during his speech on energy transition, on September 20 2013, that “local governments should have a right of experimentation on these questions”. With  strong local roots, the Île de Sein Énergies project is a possible new concrete case of application of this right, which could lead to the invention of a new development model, intelligently combining autonomy and solidarity.