A unique approach to an offshore windfarm project

Since January 2015, Laurence Monnoyer-Smith has chaired the Special Commission in relation to an offshore windfarm project situated some 15 km out in the English Channel between Dieppe and Tréport. This wind-farm with 62 turbines, capacity 8 MW, is planned for commissioning in 2021. However, before that date, the will be a statutory 100-day public debate, for the purpose of collecting opinions, questions, expectations and fears expressed, from a maximum number of citizens concerned. To implement this requirement, Laurence Monnoyer-Smith (who is also Vice-President of the National Standing Committee for Public Debate (acronym CNDP), implemented a strong set of measures which, for the very first time, truly modernized this democratic exercise.

A unique approach to an offshore windfarm project

The challenge is quite considerable: the conclusions of this public debate could introduce substantial modifications, or even bring an end to this offshore windfarm project, attributed by tender to a consortium including GDF Suez, EDP Renewables, Neoen Marine and Areva. “The fact of the matter is that wind-farming in France (as an alternative energy source) – and whether it be the offshore version makes no difference – is, rightfully or wrongly, a subject for heated debate. For any project in excess of 300 Meuros (this project will cost some 2 billion euros in investments alone), the CNDP issues statements as to the necessity to organize a public debate”, explains Laurence Monnoyer-Smith. Several criteria were taken into account to substantiate this CNDP decision, such as the environmental impact, national interests, socio-economic factors, the degree of potential conflict surrounding the subject, etc. The CNDP has decided it is necessary to hold the debate for this “Treport project” and appointed Laurence Monnoyer-Smith to chair the ad hoc commission and therefore organize the debate. It will be a “first for her” and will provide an opportunity to apply the results of her research on rehabilitating and renewing public debate and the implication of citizens using adapted tools to do this. “We are working hard on the organization so as to be ready to launch the debate April 24, with a very tight and dense schedule, running up to July 31. We want to take into account both the nature of the project and its context, throwing light on the numerous implications that affect the local scene and up to the national level” underscores Laurence Monnoyer-Smith. Thus, the tourist trade and landscape challenges will be analysed on a par with the inter-regional creation of industrial sectors and the national French energy policy orientations.

From public meetings to Twitter tweets and the regional FR3 television channel

All the points mentioned above will be approached in differing formats, each chosen in terms of its relevance to the topics at hand. In addition to three large-scale public hearings, which are statutory, two conferences have been planned in order to consider the overall context (France’s energy policy at a national level and the associate industrial sectors). “We want to invite informative participants who can throw light on the challenges involved, going far beyond considerations of simple civil, electric and aerodynamic engineering”. The lectures, talks and debates will be transmitted live over Internet and reported on FR3 - Picardie and Haute Normandy Regions with a 52 minute TV debate enabling viewpoints of both local and national perspectives to be heard, to which we can add the media coverage of the public debate as it progressed. Four thematic workshops have been organized (the economics, sea uses, environmental impact and territorial identity. They will come as forums, so that the points and exchanges can be taken further among local actors and a travelling artistic exhibition will be proposed, eliciting reactions by all those who may feel concerned about this project. “Aesthetics, which will touch on people’s sensitivity, will prove interesting when it comes to getting the public at large involved”, feels Laurence Monnoyer-Smith. Some twenty ‘mobile’ debated will associate this project with other Channel coast events (the Solitaire du Figaro boar-race, the Salon du Livre, local kite-surf meetings and competitions, etc. and meetings with the public – via social centres, solidarity charities, etc.).

A 100-day marathon

The advent of digital media is an excellent ally: over and above the Facebook® page and the Twitter® account, a forum has been organized upstream of the Treport Project site (cf. link below) to allow internauts to raise questions and air their views and expectations. “Throughout the debate, we shall instil a high level of interactivity. It is the first time a Commission has implemented such a panoply of tools”, notes Laurence Monnoyer-Smith with satisfaction. “We have brought together the conditions needed to ensure proper discussion of the theme. Now we are ready to launch the 100 day marathon!” Following this stage, the Commission will draft its report and conclusions and will be forwarded as the results of the public debate. It can be noted that on average 2/3 of all projects are either modified or simply abandoned and there is the guarantee that the public points of view have been heard and analysed.

To learn more about this exercise, access the special internet address: