In July 2015, the French Parliament adopted the Energy Transition for Green Growth bill presented by the Ecology Minister, Ségolène Royal.
A few months after the opening of the Paris Climate Conference (COP21), the energy transition bill presented by the Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal has just been adopted this Wednesday by the Parliament after 150 hours of debate and hundreds of hours of work by the commission.
As a result of this law, a number of sectors will now be contributing to the drive for energy efficiency. The most important of these is the construction industry, which accounts for 40% of the energy used in France every year and nearly 25% of the greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a threefold objective in this sector: “combat energy insecurity, enhance households’ quality of live (and) improve buildings’ energy performance,” notes the Housing Minister, Sylvia Pinel, in a statement.
MEASURES TO STIMULATE ENERGY EFFICIENCY WORK
The law aims to encourage energy-efficiency renovations in 500,000 housing units per year from 2017 onwards, at least of half of which are occupied by low-income households. This would lower energy insecurity by 15% by 2020.
In practice, the government is provided a set of financial incentives for households: an “energy cheque” (for around 4 million eligible households) to go towards paying their energy bill, a guarantee fund to ease access to micro-credit and have renovation work done. The law also provides for developing specific energy saving certificates. These measures are in addition to other schemes already in place, such as the CITE tax relief scheme and interest-free loans.
Households will also have fuller information. From 2017, they will have a digital tool for home monitoring and maintenance. They will also be able to use smart meters to track their consumption of electricity (the Linky meter) and gas (the Gazpar meter).
Alongside these tools, regional energy renovation platforms will be created to give consumers guidance and advice about financing, certified tradesmen, energy diagnoses and planning the work to be done. The government will also increase support for regional public third-party financing companies, so that they can advance funds to individuals who want to have energy-efficiency work done on their home.
MEASURES TO BOOST BUILDINGS’ ENERGY PERFORMANCE
The law also contains a set of measures designed to boost buildings’ energy performance. From now on, major renovation work (re-roofing, façade refurbishment, extensions, attic conversions, etc.) will have to meet energy-performance obligations.
Additionally, all public new-build projects (State, public establishments or regional authorities) will be positive-energy and high-environmental-performance whenever possible, and will have to promote the use of biosourced materials.
To encourage the energy transition, the government has begun a vast programme to simplify town planning rules, and plans to showcase standard-setting operations.
A network of waste-collection centres for construction and public works contractors will be created by 1 January 2017 to improve waste recycling: distributors of materials for these professionals will collect the waste at their sales outlets (or nearby).
WHAT ABOUT ENERGY?
By 2030, 32% of our total energy consumption will have to be renewable energy.
Among the flagship measures, hailed by the SER (France’s renewable energy association), is “the single authorisation to install and operate wind farms, hydropower plants, methanisation plants, and plants to generate electricity or biomethane from biogas, the exemption of bioenergies from domestic consumption taxes that now only apply to fossil fuels, the promotion of renewable energy in the building industry and the encouragement for crowdfunding renewable energy production projects”.
On the controversial question of the distance between wind turbines and homes, the new rule now laid down in the law stipulates that the distance can be adapted locally, based on the project. The SER greeted this compromise as “the fairest balance between the goals of wind power development and the goals of local community acceptability of projects”.
The aim is to increase the “climate and energy contribution” (a revised version of the carbon tax, included in the taxes paid on fuels and fuel oil) fourfold between 2016 and 2030. This contribution will climb from €22 per tonne of CO2 in 2016 to €100 in 2030, with an interim target of €56 in 2022.
In defence of the change, the authors point out that the figures correspond to what experts say is “the carbon price necessary to change consumer behaviour”. These are only target figures, though: the annual contribution will be set each year in the government’s budget.
Almost a year after presenting the text to the Council of Ministers, Ségolène Royal praised “an ambitious, motivating law, which will be the most advanced of its kind in Europe and beyond” and which “aims to make France a model of environmental excellence”.