Incentives and obstacles to development of energy efficiency in France

What drives consumers and professionals to choose energy efficiency systems? What are the obstacles on the way? The Opinion Way / Rexel survey provides valuable information on the ongoing dissemination of energy efficiency solutions.

High costs, main obstacle to spreading energy efficiency solutions

In the four countries where the study was conducted, financial considerations remain the main factor that keeps consumers from moving towards energy efficiency. 68% of respondents say they decided not to purchase energy efficiency products. The reason why households hesitate to embrace energy efficiency is not so much prices as insufficient incomes. It is to be noted that, according to Eurostat, France is the country with the lowest actual prices in Europe.

However, let us bear in mind that although prices are still relatively high, fast investment payback and dissemination of technology should gradually help overcome the financial hurdle.

Tenants reluctant to invest in energy efficiency

Aside from financial constraints, the structure of the housing market can have a bearing on global demand for energy efficiency products. The higher the percentage of rental units versus ownership, the less ready households are to make investments. As a matter of fact, tenants do not plan to undertake significant works even when they are allowed to. 27% of respondents say that the fact that they do not own their homes is precisely the reason why they are not willing to commit to these kinds of expenses. The fact is that France is one the countries in Europe with the most rental units, according to French consumers group UFC-Que Choisir.

More information needed

And those consumers without financial constraints are still discouraged by the lack of clarity in the range of products available. For want of adequate information on complex products, households willing to improve their home’s energy efficiency are left unable to make choices. It is particularly true for people in the UK and the US: respectively 47% and 46% of respondents think that poor information about energy efficiency is an obstacle for its development. As a matter of fact, knowing someone who has already taken steps to optimize their energy consumption is a decisive factor in going for energy efficiency solutions. All this shows that, for now, energy optimization remains an underdeveloped practice.

It is therefore not surprising that respondents say that the government should contribute to the spread of these technologies. 44% of them expect authorities to provide information on the savings that energy efficiency can help achieve. 58% of professionals surveyed in France think the government has a role to play to boost energy efficiency solutions. It could for instance increase public aid or streamline current tax incentives, that is going beyond what was decided at the December 2011 energy efficiency roundtable. Despite the implementation of new schemes such as the “PTZ+” zero-rate loan and the energy performance contracts (CPE), respondents want the government to do more. Doing so could provide policy-makers with political leverage, as 58% of those surveyed say they would vote in support of such measures.

Energy efficiency, a promising sector

Energy efficiency is a growing market where professionals adapt to make supply match demand. The Opinion Way / Rexel survey shows that on the one hand, 81% of the businesses surveyed are moving towards energy efficiency to meet their clients’ needs as regards cutting their energy bills. And indeed on the other hand, 79% of consumers say they would like to invest in energy efficiency solutions to achieve energy savings. The figure in the UK goes as high as 86%.

By way of conclusion, both electrical professionals and households are aware of the potentialities of energy efficiency. Initial obstacles are not insurmountable, and it is safe to bet that the spread of technology will drive prices down. Likewise, governments will grow more familiar with energy efficiency issues and will better inform the public on potential savings.

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