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France's Energy Transition for Green Growth Act

France enacted its Energy Transition for Green Growth legislation on August 17, 2015 following an initial presentation at the 2012 environmental conference and a nation-wide public consultation in 2013. The Act lays out a roadmap for transforming France's energy model without hampering growth.

The broad outlines of the national energy transition bill are being debated by the French parliament.
©AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG

General Framework and Objectives of the Act

The Act requires producers and consumers of energy in all sectors – from housing and transportation to electricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... and waste – to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas (ghg) Gas with physical properties that cause the Earth's atmosphere to warm up. There are a number of naturally occurring greenhouse gases... (GHG) emissions, while at the same time leaving France leeway to promote economic growth. This is a real challenge given that, on average over the long term, economic growth has usually led to sharp increases in co2See Carbon Dioxid emissions1.

The Act is based on a three-pronged approach that involves increasing the share of renewables in the energy mixThe range of energy sources of a region., reducing primary energyAll energy sources that have not undergone any conversion process and remain in their natural state.. consumption and taxing emissions. It sets out several broad objectives:

The Act introduces multi-year energy plans (PPEs) that set industry - and region - specific objectives. The first such plan was introduced by decree in October 2016 and will last from 2016 to 2018. The second PPE will span a five-year period (2019-2023), as will the following plans2.

17 billion: The number of single-use plastic bags used in France each year before they were banned.

The Building Industry: A Priority Area

As buildings consume more energy than transportation or industry and are big GHG emitters, the Act makes residential energy efficiencyIn economic terms, energy efficiency refers to the efforts made to reduce the energy consumption of a system... one of its top priorities.

In 2012, the French State set a target of bringing 500,000 homes a year into compliance with thermal and environmental standards by 2017 (380,000 private dwellings and 120,000 public housing units). According to the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), in 2014 fewer than 300,000 private dwellings had undergone energy renovation work, which comes with a high price tag of around €25,000 on average. Experts say that the target of 500,000 homes will be hard to reach.

To encourage private individuals to renovate their homes, the Act introduces a number of financial incentives. The energy transition tax credit (CITE), for example, enables anyone, regardless of whether they pay taxes, to be reimbursed up to 30% of the cost for certain types of energy renovation work, such as heating improvements, insulation and installation of facilities running on renewable energyEnergy sources that are naturally replenished so quickly that they can be considered inexhaustible on a human time scale.... Zero interest loans for homeowners are expected to continue for several years, with a target of 100,000 loans a year. And third-party financing options will be developed, particularly via the creation of regional companies that will provide advance funding for renovation work.

The Act also seeks to promote "energy-positive" buildings (BEPOS), which produce more energy than they consume in day-to-day running. Public buildings will lead the way.

The French Energy Transition Act predicts that final energy consumption will be halved by 2050.

A Boost for Renewable Energies

To achieve the objective of sourcing 32% of France's power from renewable energies by 2030, the Act sets out to bring biomassIn the energy sector, biomass is defined as all organic matter of plant or animal origin..., geothermalDescribes the technology used to tap subsurface heat to produce energy... power, district heating and other sustainable energy sources into more homes. Fonds Chaleur, a fund overseen by the French Environment and Energy Management Agency, will receive twice as much funding to help raise the percentage of renewables used in final heat consumption to 38%.

The decrease in nuclear energyEnergy produced in nuclear power plants. The enormous amount of heat released during fission of uranium atom nuclei is transferred to water... should foster the expansion of wind, solar and hydro power, helping to raise the share of electricity generated from renewables to 40% of the total by 2030. At the same time, the Act replaces the previous grid buy-back scheme for renewably generated electricity with a system for selling on the wholesale electricity market, coupled with a bonus.

The number of electric vehicle charging stations is slated to grow to seven million by 2030 from 10,000 today. And biofuelA fuel produced from plant or animal matter. There are currently two types of biofuel..., hydrogenThe simplest and lightest atom, the most abundant element in the universe. and biogasA product of the methanation (anaerobic digestion) of organic waste... are expected to supply 15% of the transportation sector's energy needs.

The Circular Economy

The Act aims to achieve a 7% reduction in household waste per capita by 2020 from 2010 levels, and recycle 60% of waste by 2025. It also outlaws planned obsolescence.

Measures Already in Force  While dozens of decrees will be needed to implement the Act over the coming years, a number of measures are already in force and impacting daily life in France:

1. In January 2016, a decree strengthened the electric and hybrid vehicle subsidy scheme, with buyers now eligible for up to €10,000 off a car's sale price if they trade in their high-emissions vehicle (conditions apply)3.

2. Since mid-February 2016, employers can pay their staff an allowance of €0.25 per kilometer for commuting to and from work on a bicycle.

3. In May 2016, a voucher system designed to help low-income households pay their energy bills started being trialed in certain regions. The system will be extended to the rest of France as of January 1, 2018. In addition, buildings with central heating will be required to measure the consumption of each home individually where possible.

4. On July 1, 2016, single-used plastic bags were banned at supermarket checkouts. They were also abolished from the fruit and vegetable aisle as of January 1, 2017. Previously, some five billion such bags were used at checkouts each year, along with 12 billion for fruit and vegetables. They have been replaced by paper bags and "bio‑based" plastic alternatives, which are partly made of corn or potato starch.

5. In early August 2016, the French government introduced a new legal framework to make it easier to test autonomous vehicles, which it has described as "the next revolution in mobility".

6. In late August 2016, measures governing the ban on disposable plastic cups, glasses and plates were adopted, although they will not come into force until January 1, 2020.

 

Sources:

(1) French Ministry of Sustainable Development (in French only)

(2) French Ministry of Sustainable Development (in French only)

(3) For more details on the subsidy scheme, see the French Ministry of Sustainable Development (in French only)