Status of Solar Heating/Cooling and Solar Buildings - 2012

Status of the Market for Solar Thermal Systems

Market Size and Trends

Every year, 250 000 m² of solar thermal collectors are installed. Most of these collectors are installed in single and multi-family houses.

Large-scale solar thermal systems for multi-family buildings are a rather dynamic field. At the end of each of the last three years, this market segment had grown by another 20%. The sector is pushed mainly by new housing projects, which have to fulfil the new “BBC 2012” building code requirements for energy-efficient buildings this year. According to the Uniclima study, the “BBC” programme will continue to be a driver of solar thermal systems also in 2012.

The first half of the year 2012 was marked by an important milestone in the evolution of the French solar thermal market: For the first time, collective systems - including multi-family houses and commercial projects - have reached the level of the decreasing residential market. There is only one area in the latter segment which shows an upward trend: compact solar systems, which include a tight-fit boiler usually associated with a domestic solar hot water system. This technology is particularly widespread in newly built houses.

The solar thermal market will at best remain stagnant until the end of 2012 as the decline in the residential sector has offset any increase in the collective market segment. Without significantly new and dynamic solar thermal applications to kick-start sales, further difficulties are expected in 2013. The building sector still has not recovered, which means efficient building regulations do not have a strong impact on the solar thermal market.

Typical Applications and Products

The most typical application in France is domestic hot water in housing and the tertiary sector. As indicated previously, the market for multif-amily housing and tertiary (hotels, etc.) is now bigger in volume than the single houses systems market. For this multi-family segment, the average size of the systems is nearly 25 to 40m²

About 1000 combined solar systems are installed in France per year.

Solar thermal for industry and for air-conditioning is anecdotic as well as for district heating.

Main Market Drivers

The situation in France is quite difficult for solar thermal energy because the price of electricity is quite low and the price for solar thermal systems are quite high. There is also competition with solar PV for tax credits. The solar thermal market also is suffering from a negative image issue due to the lack of communication and presentation of good practice results. There is a lack of transparency on the value chain of the sector, which would provide feedback on expensive projects, including any quality issues.

There is a national building regulation that requires the use of renewable energy in new buildings, but the competition is hard for the thermodynamic water heater, even if this technology has given not so good first performance feedbacks after some serious monitoring campaigns. The electricity lobby is very powerful and so made it possible to still use electrical devices for DHW preparation until 2015.


France has a domestic manufacturing base for solar thermal. The market can be two or  three-tiered: to wholesalers, who sell to installers, who sell to consumers. This system with two intermediaries of selling is one reason of the high prices, but another reason for these high prices is the very reduced number of installations annually per installer which leads to important margins and lack of quality.The cost of certification for the French systems is as well very expensive especially when the market volume of the manufacturers is low.


In 2011, 8000 persons were working in France for the solar thermal sector.


In comparison, the price of electricity for domestic house is about 140 €/MWh and nearly 80€/MWh for larger constumers (industry, tertiary) which makes France one of the cheapest country in the World for electricity. We can see that solar thermal heat is not competitive at the moment according to the actual investment prices due to an ongoing small market.

Other Key Topics

The quality of the solar thermal installations is identified as a problem in France for a number of reasons. In fact, some users are not satisfied by the performance of the installation. Of course, the know-how in France of some actors leads to well performing installations and proof of it thanks to large-scale monitoring campaigns. But numerous new installations, designed and installed without cautions and good commissioning are working unsatisfactorily, and thus creating a bad image for potential clients and housing sector building owners.

Status of the Market for Solar Buildings


The Solarwall technology is now installed in France and there are about 20 installations. This technology consists of heating the air passing through a solar wall.

Market Size and Trends

For the moment, only one company is proposing this technology, the Canadian company Solarwall.

R&D Activities

R&D Programmes

No specific solar thermal R&D program is ongoing in France. A project to launch a specific solar thermal call in 2013 is being discussed at the moment with an orientation towards financing highly innovative projects carried out by industry and including repayable advances / loans.

R&D Infrastructure

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

Actual Innovations

Research programs are done on lots of subjects : storage, collectors for heating network, solar cooling, etc.

Support Framework

Government Agencies Responsible for Solar Thermal, for Solar Building Activities




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

In France, the energy policy is driven by two main government initiatives:

  • The POPE law of July 2005, which deals with Energy strategy in connection with the country’s long-term "factor 4" objective (reducing the greenhouse emissions by a factor 4 from 2005 to 2050). The goal of this law is to produce an additional 50% of renewable heat energy (15 MToe by year versus 10 MToe in 2003).
  • The “Grenelle Environment Round Table” which is a process aimed to define the key points of government policy on ecological and sustainable development issues. The “Grenelle Environment” is a debate organised during the summer 2007 between French government and some representatives of the civil society (professional associations, citizen and environmental advocacy organisations…).

Solar thermal is supported by the Government through financial incentives. These incentives are designed to support the production of 100,000 Toe each year until 2020, which represents the installation of 15 to 20 million cumulated m².

Two kinds of financial support exist. One for individual houses and the other for apartment and service sector buildings.

Tax credit

This financial measure is a tax credit for homeowners and not a reduction of the tax. Therefore, people who do not pay taxes can still receive a payment. The amount of the subsidy is half of the equipment price before taxes and does not include installation.

The tax credit is applicable for heating and hot water solar systems with CSTBat or Solar keymark certified collectors.

Fond chaleur “heat funding”

This financial measure supports the production of hot water in apartments, office buildings, hostels and swimming pools. A minimum of 25m² of collectors is required to be eligible, and heating and cooling solar systems are not eligible for the “fond chaleur”.

The subsidy is proportional to the heat production and depends on where you live in France. A certain amount of the subsidy is granted for monitoring so that energy performance can be measured for several years.

The collectors must be CSTBat or Solar keymark certified and the building must comply with the French heating thermal regulation.

Some additional rules are present : -minimum solar yield per unit of solar collector per year depending on the area of the project (from 350 to 450 kWh/m².y)

- maximum of eligible investment is taken into account to size the grant level (1100 to 1200€/m²)

Contrary to the tax credit, this subsidy scheme provides a financial incentive to measure the solar heat production.

Information Resources

National Solar Associations (industry and non-industry)

Most Important Media for Solar Thermal and Solar Buildings