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Is the French market ready to switch to new gas technologies?


It’s a tough question to answer, but there is definitely a push toward more efficient gas technology in France, suggesting the country is ready for a switch. In our latest research as part of the Gas Heating Service, we covered this interesting market to find out about the evolving role of gas heating appliances in France.

The French market currently has an important share of gas heating (more than 40% of the dwelling stock) but it has not been a straight path. With the nuclear power programme for example, 70% of new homes built in the ‘70s received electric heating. Nowadays, gas heating represents more than 50% of new build. It’s clear gas has an important role and, from our latest research, we are certain of its future in the French market.

Gas in France today…

The use of gas in France is included in the French energy transition strategy. The law set a target of 10% of bio-methane injected into the gas grid by 2030 and this sector is growing at a fast pace. Additionally, while we expect electric heating to also maintain a sizeable share, an all-electric scenario is highly unlikely in France, due to the high grid constraint in winter and the expected phase-out of low-carbon nuclear generation.

Alongside the strategy of greener gas, changes to the building regulations are incentivising higher efficiency appliances. Currently, the main gas heating technology installed in new homes is condensing gas boilers alongside an element of renewable energy. Boilers come either with a domestic hot water heat pump (HP) or with PV (increasingly the preferred solution). For the retrofit market, the condensing gas boiler is also the dominating solution. There is an increasing role in this segment for smart or connected solutions.

…and tomorrow!

So, where do micro-CHP, hybrid HPs or Gas HP appliances fit into the picture? Can we expect to see them rolled out in France? In our view, the answer would be a small yes. More and more players have entered or are trying to enter the French market with new products. There is a strong support from utility and gas network operators (GRDF) to see highly efficient products in the market.

New entrants like Boostheat can bring change to this market with new route to market and technology. However, a range of challenges needs to be tackled, as usual, such as the high upfront cost of these technologies and the lack of engagement with new products from some larger manufacturers. These technologies will have some room in the French heating landscape but they need to focus on the big challenges of this market and to form the right sales partnerships.

Regulatory changes are coming: will they help or hinder?

What could be an important change for the better is the next thermal regulation. The RT2020, as its name implies, should be enacted in 2020. The regulation is currently being trialled with the new Label E+C- (short for ‘Énergie + Carbone-’, or ‘énergie positive & reduction carbone’). These requirements are an expanded version of the existing thermal regulations (RT 2012) and will be given to any building that fits the new requirements.

This label will aim to keep reducing the amount of energy required during the “utilisation phase” and also reduce the environmental impact over the lifetime of the building. In order to reach this goal, the label will use two indicators to assess the energy performance and the environmental performance (based on a life cycle assessment on the greenhouse gas emissions of the building).

The key indicator to watch is the environmental performance. The way this indicator will be set in the RT2020 will define how clean gas heating appliances must be in order to be installed in new build. Then, higher efficiency gas appliances could be incentivised in new build. In the same way, the new direction of the carbon tax from the 2018 finance bill will favour the deployment of efficient technology.

There are clear signals that the French market is going in the right direction, towards more efficient and cleaner appliances. The transition toward this technology will be slow but could be faster if the right actions are conducted and if new entrants manage to make the right partnerships.

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