Xavier Brunetière, prefect of the Gers: “Renewable energies, a national priority”
Widely requested in recent weeks with, in particular, the successive visits of ministers Marc Fesneau and Gabriel Attal, the prefect of the Gers Xavier Brunetière evokes for us the themes of the moment, from renewable energies to bird flu via water management. .
Mr. Prefect, the development of renewable energies arouses many reactions in the department. What attention does the state pay you?
We are entering an exercise of declension of the national objectives to be able to program the development of renewable energies in the department. That’s what’s in the Renewable Energy Act that was just enacted this past weekend. We know we have several hundred megawatts of photovoltaics to develop in the department, and the same thing for methanizers. We must also be able to develop the production and introduction of gas into the networks. With the EnR law passed on March 10, we will have tools, in particular from communities for municipalities, which will be able to define acceleration zones, EnR projects. For agricultural areas, the law provides for a very strict framework on agri-voltaism, which is in line with the position collectively adopted under the renewable energy regime, stating that priority is PV over commercial facilities. In agricultural areas, sheds are preferred. The law is demanding on agrivoltaic projects, in particular to demonstrate that agricultural activity remains essential and a priority. The law, on the other hand, entrusts the Chamber of Agriculture, in agreement with the State, with the definition of priority areas on agricultural land that can be used for agri-voltaics. They are wastelands that have not been exploited for years.
The future agricultural park of Berrac has sparked strong protests from the local population. Isn’t there a lack of public awareness?
For Berrac we had formulated requirements on land restoration, agronomic monitoring and maintenance of cereal activity on the rest of the surface. I consider it almost an experimental project. Above all, this does not apply to the jurisprudence in the field of agri-voltaics. The project has been moved about ten meters from the initial project. It has been discussed on several occasions in municipal councils, councils that are not behind closed doors. In the context of the charter for the development of renewable energies, we insisted on the fact that it was really necessary to make efforts upstream to take into account the observations, to think about distances.
What weight will renewable energies have in the future?
It is a national priority because we can clearly see that we are heavily dependent on energy, so it is a matter of European and national sovereignty. When we look at the capabilities of the Gers, we see that we produce very little energy that we consume. On the other we have photovoltaic and methanation deposits. We must be able to increase power in the coming years. We will shortly be called upon to define the departmental and renewable energy development objectives.
The other major theme of the department concerns water resources. New deductions are wanted by the agricultural world, which sometimes finds the delays too long. What response can the State give?
Since 2021, there are 41 authorized reservoirs in the department for 2 million m³ of water. Since 2018, 22 have been authorized for 500,000 m³. In most cases, these are single basins of 10,000 to 40,000 m³ and which can irrigate 4 to 5 hectares. There are permits granted. Do they always translate into jobs? I can’t tell you, but there are deductions going on. We are also working with the chamber and farmers to improve storage capacities. We do this with cleaning experimentation. Some estimate that we have perhaps 15 to 20% of the department’s retention volume that could be earned by treating. We have many tanks that are 20 or 30 years old and haven’t been cleaned. One of the topics of the department is also soil erosion. The cleaning must also allow the ground to stabilize upstream, or at least not to end up in a situation in which the reservoir continues to fill up as there will be sediments that will derive from soil erosion. There is an interest in using sediment and cleaning product. And then there is also a regulatory issue, because there is a threshold between 2,000 and 10,000 m³ which requires a specific procedure. There are therefore gains on cleaning, lifting some tanks or even maintaining them. We are discussing and are ready to support farmers on this point.
As regards avian influenza, the progression of the epizootic appears to be better controlled than last year. How do you explain it?
From December to today we have 14 houses, one of which in the farmyard and 22 depopulations, that is to say almost 200,000 animals. In the same period between 2021 and 2022 there were 66 outbreaks, 93 depopulation and 922,000 animals. There are several factors that explain this: factors related to the virus itself, the effect of the Adour plan and the dedensification that has been carried out. The threat remains, because we still have wildlife. This is why we are still implementing many compensation tools to help farmers in the department overcome this problem.
The vaccine is also eagerly awaited…
During his visit, the Minister expressed very clear words on the State’s commitment to vaccination at European and international level. He also confirmed that there was also a discussion to guarantee the production and purchase of vaccines. He confirmed that the state will contribute to the financing of the vaccination. The costs are high, especially the monitoring costs. The vaccination doctrine is currently being defined. It is not stabilized. From what I understand, it’s no substitute for biosecurity measures. Vaccination does not prevent contagiousness so it will certainly be necessary to depopulate the contaminated houses. On the other hand, vaccination could make it possible to avoid the depopulation of healthy families. The doctrine is under development. The minister has indicated very clearly the involvement of the state in vaccination with the availability of the vaccine this year.
Finally, a word about your future. Some rumors indicate a possible departure within the year. What to say?
I am not the master of the decision. As long as I have the honor of serving in the department, I will serve with all the enthusiasm and energy I can.
“Thefts are on the rise”
As part of the national program for the creation of 200 new gendarmerie brigades in France announced last June by the President of the Republic, the prefecture continues its work. “We had mentioned a reasoning of three areas in which it might be interesting to position oneself in response to security. To the east of the department, on the axis of the RN 124, which is an axis of penetration of delinquency, being able to position a new territorial brigade would make it possible to thicken the reinforcement of the brigades in the eastern part of the department.Several municipalities have positioned themselves to welcome a brigade.The other two areas concern Armagnac on one side and Astarac.There, it seemed interesting to us to have a security proposal around the brigade mobile, that is, additional personnel intended to shine, to be present in the field. We have candidates there too. We have half a dozen municipalities who have positioned themselves to welcome or build a brigade or housing. At the end of the month the idea is that I can come up with some proposals”, delivers the prefect, who also mentions the little further consolidation of the workforce.
Fighting against burglaries is also an important departmental security line of work. “We can support communities in creating video protection. Thefts are increasing quite significantly in 2022 in the department (between 15 and 20%). Among the actions of the Technical Scientific Police (PTS), the increased presence on public roads of the police and gendarmes and video surveillance, we have tools that can help soldiers of the gendarmerie and officials of the national police to clarify the facts of burglary.