The solar market in France: still a positive outlook for 2011

Total photovoltaic capacity grew tenfold between 2008 and 2010: targets for 2012 set by the Grenelle Environment Forum (1100 MW power) will already be widely exceeded in the coming months. But this successful kick-start has caused the French Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development to revise its incentive scheme.

The photovoltaic sector in France, largely under-developed a few years ago, seems to have benefited from effective incentive policies: the fixing of feed-in tariffs for electricity, subsidies granted by local authorities, grant-aid from ADEME and ANAH etc. The initial targets achieved, these incentives will decrease gradually, including a downward revaluation of the purchase price of the photovoltaic kWh to avoid any speculative bubble in a market experiencing very strong growth. A revision already widely begun in 2010 and 2011. Subsidies from local authorities will continue to exist on a case by case basis, according to the constraints of their specific Agenda 21.

Photovoltaic and solar thermal in 2011

Despite these changes, not welcomed by all, the photovoltaic sector should continue to grow in the future: the lowering of the feed-in tariff mainly affects large ground-based systems; the highest pricing applied to small systems roof-embedded in residential buildings, remains unchanged for the moment. Increasingly better controlled, photovoltaic technology should also see its production and purchase costs fall fast in the future months and years. The profitability of the investment should therefore not decrease. The installation of solar thermal systems (heating appliances and the supply of hot water powered by solar energy) should be supported by sustainable development tax credits.

The 2012 Thermal Regulations: the conversion to renewables

The regulations set by the so-called “RT 2012“(2012 Thermal Regulations) will impose new energy standards for new buildings: primary energy consumption for any new residential or tertiary building should be less than 50 kWh PE /m2 per year. In this calculation, locally produced energy from renewable sources will be taken into account: photovoltaic, solar thermal and other renewable energy source devices will allow buildings to fall more easily under the 50 kWh PE /m2 per year level. An additional incentive to integrate photovoltaic systems in new buildings.

Whether or not achievable, the targets of a 20% share of renewables in total energy consumption in the EU in 2020, set by the European Council in 2007, and of 23% adopted in France as part of the national plan for the development of renewable energy point to a bright future for solar. The sector has considerable and as yet untapped production potential.

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