Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2015

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

The French collector market totalled 150 500 m² in 2014, down 21 % from 2013. All three main market segments for solar thermal systems have shown a decline in 2014. Collective systems are the most important segment and represented 50% of the total solar collector market in terms of surface. This particular market is down by 23 % compared to 2013 and represented 75 500 m² in 2014.  Next in order of importance are DHW systems: down 9 % to 18 600 units (they represented 45% of the market in terms of surface). Finally, combined DHW and heating systems represented only 700 systems (down 36%) and have effectively become a niche market (5% of the market in terms of surface). The overall significant downward trend as observed since 2008 is confirmed by these figures for 2014 (source: ENERPLAN).

The outlook for the 2015 overall market shows a continuation of this trend as the market may contract by another 25% (source: ENERPLAN). Although it had been hoped that the building regulations (RT 2012) would become stricter and thus favour collective solar systems as of 2015, such a change may now only take place as of 2018.

The main reasons that explain the retraction of the market for individual systems are:

·       The rising popularity of DHW heat pumps, less costly to purchase and easier to install. This latter reason explains why many installers prefer them over solar thermal systems;

·       A return on investment which seems too long for the families;

·       Solar thermal still seems to be not well known, and there often is confused with PV.

(Source: Marchés & Emplois, November 2014, ADEME). 

Typical Applications and Products

The typical solar thermal application in France is the domestic hot water system in the housing and the tertiary sector. However, in terms of collector surfaces, the market for collective systems became the most important market in 2012, and remained so in 2013, while being more or less in balance with the market for individual systems in 2014. The typical collector surface of these collective systems is ranging from 25 to 40 m².

Solar thermal industrial applications, solar thermal air-conditioning as well as solar thermal district heating are anecdotic. Yet two installations on solar thermal district heating were realised in new “eco-friendly” districts in Toulouse and Montpellier.

Main Market Drivers

Solar thermal systems for the existing building stock are subsidised either with a tax credit (for individual installations) or with subsidies (for collective systems). Building regulations for new buildings impose more or less a choice for renewable hot water supply. Given the high cost of solar thermal in France, combined with low electricity prices, solar thermal systems are facing fierce competition from thermodynamic water heater systems. The latter are also perceived as easier to install. 

Industry

France has a solid domestic solar thermal manufacturing base. The industrial output is valued at some 255 million euros for 2012, with roughly a third of the production finding its way abroad (source: Marchés & Emplois, ADEME). The major industry players are: Viessmann, Vaillant, Giordano Industries and Clipsol.

Employment

An estimated 4,900 persons were working in the solar thermal sector in France in 2012. The four most important activities are: systems manufacturing (some 1,150 FTE), distribution (780 FTE), installation (2,000 FTE) maintenance and exploitation (700 FTE) (source: Marchés & Emplois, ADEME).

Costs

A 2013 study by EY for ADEME on the competitiveness of solar thermal systems in France shows that the costs per kWh of solar thermal energy range between 18 euro cents (new buildings) and more than 24 euro cents (existing buildings) for individual systems. Despite the important upfront investment costs, individual systems for new buildings would be competitive without subsidy to thermodynamic water heater systems.

Nevertheless, system prices are high in France which seems to deter interested prospects. An individual system with gas as a backup would cost some € 4 500 – € 6 000, compared to € 2 500 - € 3 000) for a thermodynamic water heater, or only € 400 - € 800 for an electric water heater (all prices without VAT).

Collective solar thermal systems in France were generally not competitive without subsidy in 2014.

When not taking into account any subsidies, prices would need to come down by at least 30% by 2020 for individual solar thermal systems to start to become competitive against “classic”, non-renewable energy systems. However, individual solar thermal systems for existing buildings face an almost impossible challenge as costs would have to come down some 50-70% (source: EY, Analysis of the competitiveness and the development of solar thermal sector in France, 2013. Study realised for ADEME).

Other Key Topics

Following the 2013 competitiveness study, the French solar thermal industry has been executing an action plan in 2014 which focusses on the marketing of solar thermal, on the performance and the quality of solar thermal systems and which will address R&D needs. 

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings

Scope

France does not specifically endorse solar buildings through its energy and building policies. Policies are generally aimed at making existing buildings more (primary) energy efficient (by improving isolation and by installing renewable energy systems when renovating) and by imposing strict primary energy consumption criteria for new buildings (typically a maximum consumption of 50 kWh/m².year). Solar thermal systems present an option to respect these criteria.

An example of promotion of solar buildings is the biennial selection of bioclimatic buildings equipped with solar installations, organised by Observ’ER. A flip over publication of the 2014 results can be found at: http://extra.energies-renouvelables.org/Flipbook-HSHA-2013-2014/. It shows photos of the forty distinguished projects (photovoltaic and solar thermal) in mainland France and its overseas territories.

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

The solar thermal action plan presented above will also address R&D needs. A specific 2014 call for proposals for solar thermal energy did not result in any project being subsidised.

R&D Infrastructure

R&D Institutions
Institution Type of Institution Relevant Research Areas IEA SHC Involvement Website
CEA Public Systems, components, monitoring YES www.cea.fr
CNRS Research institute Components, systems YES www.cnrs.fr
Tecsol Private company Systems, quality, monitoring YES www.tecsol.fr

Actual Innovations

Research programs are done on a number of topics: storage, collectors for heating network, solar cooling, etc.

Support Framework

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities

ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency)

The French regions

EC, FEDER

Most Important Public Support Measure(s) for Solar Thermal and for Solar Buildings

The current French energy policy dates from 2007 (“Grenelle law”). A new law (Energy Transition for Green Growth) has been adopted by parliament in May 2015 and is currently being examined by the senate. One of its objectives is that renewables should represent 32% of final energy consumption by 2030.

Today, solar thermal is supported by the Government through financial incentives. Two types of financial support exist. One type of support for individual solar thermal systems and another for collective solar thermal systems (see below).

Tax credit

This financial measure is a tax credit for homeowners and is not an actual reduction of the tax. Therefore, people who do not pay taxes can still receive a payment. The tax credit has been revised and harmonised and is at 15-25% of eligible costs for 2014, depending on the family income and the number of energy related projects undertaken.

Renewable heat fund “Fonds chaleur”

The Heat Fund subsidizes projects for collective hot water systems in the collective housing sector, the tertiary sector and the agriculture and industry sector. The subsidy level should allow the costs of the exploitation of solar systems to be slightly below those of “classic systems”. With the RT 2012 regulation now well in place, only projects for existing buildings are eligible to the Heat Fund. Furthermore, a minimum surface of 25 m² of collectors is required for a project to be eligible. Heating and cooling solar systems are not eligible. However, some projects of these latter categories can benefit from monitoring campaigns (New Emerging Technologies Fund “NTE”) which seeks to better understand their energetic and economic potential.

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings