France: One Voice for Renewable Heat

In France, players of solar thermal, geothermal, heat pumps and biomass founded the Alliance Chaleur Renouvelable (translated as Renewable Heat Alliance) in February 2013. "This network speaks with one voice when it comes to the demands and suggestions from the renewable heat industry," says Valérie Laplagne, Initiator of the project and Head of Renewable Energy at Uniclima, the French union for the heating, cooling and ventilation industry. Timing is critical: In November 2012, France launched its energy transition debate, which should result in an important law specifying the new French energy policy by autumn 2013. But after renewable heat players had noticed that renewable energies had been reduced to electricity in the debate, they created the alliance. It lobbies for solar thermal in the retrofit segment, because the solar heat market is currently dominated by new construction (see photo).
Photo: Barraco / Maison NF HQE BBC-Effinergie

In April, the five association members of the alliance issued a joint statement explaining the demands and challenges faced by the renewable heating and cooling sector in France while noting that a building consumes more heat than electricity (see the attached document in French). The association made clear that the market did not reach the objectives set in energy law Grenelle de l’Environnement from 2007. Between 2005 and 2012, the renewable heat sector grew by 22 % instead of the necessary 32 %. Solar heat, heat pump and geothermal contributed 1.1 Mtoe in 2012, whereas the target for the same year was 1.6 Mtoe. One tonne of oil equivalent (toe) equals 11.63 MWh. The position paper emphasised that the renewable industry in France employed 42,000 persons in 2012 and reached sales of EUR 5.5 billion during the same year.

The association voiced the need for a higher industry support of R&D: “A minimum of 1% of sales in the sector should be allocated to R&D, supported by EUR 14 million annually from the national agencies (ADEME, ANR, ...), which amounts to altogether EUR 100 million between 2014 and 2020.”

"We now ask the associations to spread the message to politicians as soon as possible, for example, during regional discussions,” says Laplagne. The challenge is greater than ever as France launched a programme on energy retrofits in early 2013. This programme sets an objective of 500,000 renovations per year until 2017. "Today, renewable heat is more installed in new buildings, but we also want to develop the retrofit market segment. As investments in renewable heating equipment are higher than for conventional heating systems, homeowners can repay the investment through savings. Because of the tough financial situation, it will prove difficult to increase the tax credit. We also advocate for the creation of a low-interest loan scheme," explains Laplagne.

In addition, the position paper demanded that the objective to renovate 500,000 buildings per year by 2017 announced by the government in March should be linked to a required minimum share of renewable energy use and a pre-check of the building. On the other hand, the position paper said that the industry pledges to reduce the costs per kWhth by 20 % for every doubling of the installed capacity, in order to reduce the costs of solar heat by 50 % over the next seven years.

Web pages of the Alliance members:
AFPAC (Association Française pour les Pompes A Chaleur): www.afpac.org
AFPG (Association Française des Professionnels de la Géothermie): www.afpg.asso.fr
Enerplan (Syndicat des professionnels de l’energie solaire): www.enerplan.asso.fr
Uniclima (Syndicat des Industries Thermiques, Aérauliques et Frigorifiques): www.uniclima.fr
SER (Syndicat des énergies renouvelables): www.enr.fr

This article was written by French author and solar thermal specialist Lydie Bahjejian based in Paris.

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