the heat is great forgotten
Published on January 10, 2023
The renewable energy acceleration bill is due to be voted on in the National Assembly on Tuesday, January 10. Its aim is to accelerate the deployment of wind and photovoltaic projects. Environmentalists have already declared that they will remain neutral. The text has many flaws. For example, the topic of renewable heating, whose needs are met today mainly by fossil fuels, lead gas, is completely ignored.
This is a fact. When we talk about renewable energies, we think of wind turbines and photovoltaic panels and therefore renewable electricity. But almost never renewable heat, i.e. biomass, heat pumps, solar thermal, geothermal, biogas and even heat recovery. However, the thermal energy requirements are very high. They account for 45% of final energy consumption and about 25% for electricity. Although our electricity is largely carbon-free, heating needs are met by 60% fossil fuels, including gas. Thus, heat production emits five times more greenhouse gases than electricity production.
As the only country in the European Union to miss its 2020 targets, France’s backlog in renewables is not so much about renewable electricity as it is about renewable heat. The share of renewable electricity in electricity generation is 24.8% against a target of 27%, and for renewable heat the gap is even greater with a share of only 23.4% against a target of 33%. “For 2022 alone, this equates to a cost of between 6 and 9 billion euros for additional gas imports (at a gas price of between 100 and 150 euros per megawatt hour).“, says Andreas Rüdinger, coordinator of Energy Transition France at IDDRI. The amount is added to the 500 million euros that France has to pay for not meeting the target.
Only heat pumps and biomass are accelerated
Experts say that if we have not reached the 2020 goals, we are not on track to achieve them if we stay on the current trajectory for 2030. The multiannual energy program aims to increase the share of renewable heat in final heat consumption by 65% within ten years. Today, however, only heat pumps and, to a lesser extent, biomass keep pace. According to Carbone 4, solar energy, biogas and deep geothermal energy lag far behind.
“Individual solar power will meet the heating needs of all homes in France. In addition, dSolar energy recovers twice as much energy as solar photovoltaic, but we continue to install photovoltaic panels, which are more cost-effective.“, emphasizes Alexandre Joly, head of the Energy department within Carbone 4.
The doubling of the heating fund was rejected in the 2023 budget
There are many reasons for France’s delay. There is often confusion between energy and electricity. There is also the issue of competitiveness. Renewable heat was much more expensive than natural gas, but the energy crisis changed the cards. ““There have been fixes for high gas prices, but some elected officials don’t want to switch to renewable heat because they need to see it in 10 or 15 years.”, comments Valerie Weber-Haddad, director responsible for the heating, cooling and transport sectors of the Renewable Energy Syndicate. In addition, the procedures are complex and some sectors are little or poorly known (geothermal, solar thermal, etc.).
“The debate is crystallizing on nuclear power and renewable electricity, but we should not bet everything on electrification of use. In an increasingly unstable context, it would be more appropriate to aim for a diversified energy mix to ensure our energy autonomy and sustainability.”, Valerie Weber-Haddad continues. The players are particularly calling for the doubling of the heat fund to one billion euros, while renewable heat only receives 13% of renewable energy investments. However, this request was rejected in the 2023 budget.
“It is not so easy to bring the topic to the national level, because it involves local and complex projects. The energy crisis could have been an opportunity to increase investments, but we missed the boat a bit.“, observes Andreas Rüdinger. The expert thinks “shock” that the renewable energy acceleration bill ignores renewable heat “It’s still less divisive than renewable electricity, which the right and far-right oppose.“. The Assembly vote is scheduled for Tuesday, January 10, before a joint committee meeting on January 24.
Concepcion Alvarez @conce1