UNITe develops future sites to be operated by it, in the long term, based on the notion of sustainable, locally-rooted investment and installation. The energy produced is local, sustainable energy and the positive impact of the economic benefits is enjoyed by everyone during the construction phase and the operational phase.
UNITe identifies sites suitable for hydropower or photovoltaic facilities, an average of around sixty new projects per year, and oversees the entire process, from development through to commissioning and operation of the facilities.
UNITe is currently involved in various stages of development of numerous projects. The development of a project takes several years to complete. For example, we usually allow for a period of 5 years between identifying a hydropower site and commissioning of the facility.
Identification and pre-feasibility study
Through mapping and fieldwork, and relying on our network of regional operators, we identify sites suitable for the production of renewable energies.
The technical and environmental constraints of the sites are evaluated in the field and by means of bibliographic work, to ensure, for example, the compatibility of the project with the local Water Development and Management Plans (SAGE) and Water Development and Management Master Plans (SDAGE). The site’s production potential is calculated and a technical solution is outlined.
Elected officials and local residents are our gateway to local regions. Once the site has been located, we arrange a meeting with local stakeholders (local authorities, businesses or individuals) to formalise a partnership which documents the start of in-depth technical and environmental research.
This endeavour enables us to take into consideration the specific constraints of the site so the project can be adapted to local requirements.
This step also determines the financial arrangements for the project. UNITe may be the sole investor and pay a fee to the owners of the land occupied by the facility from the year of its commissioning. The aim is for the proceeds from the sale of green energy to be fairly distributed.
UNITe may also co-develop the project with local public or private stakeholders.
After 35 years of experience in renewable energies, UNITe has the expertise and know-how of an operator to determine the best technical solution for each site, for long-term and optimised operation of the facility.
The environmental studies required to authorise the project and preserve the environment are conducted by an independent research firm. For ground photovoltaic projects and hydropower projects, this phase is done as part of an annual cycle since surveys concerning fauna and flora are performed throughout the seasons to take full account of the site’s issues.
If it is not possible to respond to a site’s environmental issues, UNITe may need to terminate the development of a project.
Government departments are consulted regularly throughout the studies and various milestones are implemented with local stakeholders.
UNITe has numerous advantages in terms of funding for its investments in renewable energies:
Involvement of the local authorities
UNITe knows how to devise funding and management solutions that actually involve the local communities and people.
For the power plant in Meije, the funding was opened up to the local population via a funding platform. Local involvement can go much further: For a cooperation from the initiation of the projects, UNITe knows how to create mixed structures in order to establish good local cooperation as soon as projects are identified.
With this in mind, in 2019, in Corrèze, we created Corrèze Énergies Renouvelables, a regional semi-public company (SEM), for the development of renewable energies in the region. Part of the Corrèze Ecological Transition scheme, its purpose was to act as a tool to promote, develop and support the project leaders.
Based on the preferences, technical expertise and investment capabilities of the local authorities, the latter may choose to become more or less involved in the development. There are therefore various scenarios:
- The local authority delegates the entire development of the project to UNITe, who will take sole responsibility for the funding. The local authority will then receive an annual fee defined prior to any studies, in addition to taxes, from the first year of operation of the facility.
- The local authority is a minority shareholder in the project financial arrangements: it will then be a shareholder in the project company in line with the sum invested. This is called co-development.
- Less commonly, the local authority wishes to be a majority shareholder in the project via the creation of a semi-public company (SEM). In this scenario, it will bear the majority of the risk and the investment.
UNITe also involves the local authorities and people by using crowdfunding platforms.