In the management of the development of a project, every decision has to be taken knowing the uncertainties or difficulties related to the juridical and administrative environment, i.e. regulation. Different authorizations are needed at each phase of the project. And those have to be planned at an early stage so that it does not disturb the development. Then several uncertainties arise, mainly linked to the time schedule: different files have to be constituted, the administrative study of the files can last several months, amendments could be requested and finally you are not sure to get a positive answer. As an example, following is a list of the diverse permissions that we had to apply for during the development of the Soultz project.
In France deep geothermal energy projects are ruled by the Mining Code. Therefore, they are, from the administrative point of view, treated as coal or oil mining projects.
In order to start a deep geothermal project, it is necessary to ask for a “Geothermal Research Exclusive Permit” (PER in French), which is then put in a competitive call by national authorities. The PER determines an area within which the permit holder has exclusive rights of prospecting, in exchange of which he is committed to realize a certain amount of works within 5 years.
Then, so as to begin to drill a borehole, it is necessary to send to authorities a “request for exploration workings beginning permit” (DOTEX in French), which is subjected to a public inquiry among the population.
Once the geothermal field has been discovered, an exploitation concession has to be requested to get the exploitation rights. It defines the conditions which the concession holder is subjected to, so as to be able to benefit from the discovered geothermal field.
The French law distinguishes high temperature geothermal resources (≥ 150°C) and low temperature geothermal resources (< 150°C). For the latter, procedures are more simple.
Moreover, if, as in the case of the Soultz project, it is necessary to use binary fluids (like isobutane), a specific authorization has to be asked for exploitation, which is called “Plant listed for environmental conservation” (ICPE in French). Depending on the case, this could also be subjected to a public inquiry.
Consequently, the administrative study of all the above procedures could last up to 3 years. And this is in the best case, that is, without any opposition or complaint…