Carbon-free power is getting a double boost in Europe. France is about to procure an estimated $14 billion of offshore wind farms. Across the Channel, the U.K. is setting itself tough greenhouse gas targets, increasing its reliance on renewable and nuclear energy.

Installations planned off north coast of France would lead toward goal of 6,000 MW from offshore power by 2020.

Three of France’s biggest engineering companies formed an alliance to bid this month or in June for a slice of 3,000 MW of offshore wind power the government plans to have in operation by 2015. Another 3,000 MW is due to follow five years later.

The Paris-based companies Vinci Group, GDF SUEZ S.A and Areva S.A. will jointly bid for development rights for three of the five initial farms. The north coast installations, at Dieppe-Le Tréport, Courseulles-sur-Mer and Fécamp will have a combined capacity of 1,750 MW.

In a parallel development, the U.K.’s Energy Technologies Institute, Loughborough, on May 18 invited firms to apply for a slice of the $16-million project to develop super-long wind turbine blades for the next generation of offshore machines with a generating capacity of 8-10 MW. At more than 90-m long, the blades will be 50% longer than those now in operation.

With government backing, the turbine project is part of a U.K. push to remove the carbon from energy production. This month, the government agreed on a new national emissions reduction target that is designed to drop 50% below 1990 levels by 2027. “By cutting emissions we’re also getting ourselves off the oil hook,” said Chris Huhne, Secretary of State of energy and climate change.

The U.K. Committee on Climate Change, which set the target, forecasts that renewables’ share of national energy production will rise from 3% now to 30-45% by 2030. The committee calls for a diversified portfolio approach to overcome technological uncertainties.

Carbon capture and storage remains “promising but highly uncertain,” notes the committee. Offshore wind is “significantly more expensive” than nuclear or onshore wind, which is “close to competitive.” Wave and tidal power “may be promising, given significant resource potential and scope for cost reduction,” the report notes.

Prospects for marine renewables face “considerable uncertainties” adds the not-for-profit Carbon Trust Ltd., London, in a new analysis. Nevertheless, it forecasts deployment possibly ramping up during the next decade, rising to as much as 240,000 MW globally  by 2050.

Nuclear power appears to be “the most cost-effective” low-carbon option, notes the climate change committee. But doubts remain over costs, site availability, long-term fuel supply, waste disposal and public acceptability, it adds.

The biggest recent doubt over the U.K.’s plans for new nuclear was partially dispelled on May 18 by interim findings of a safety investigation into implications of the Japanese disaster at Fukushima.