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Five things to know if you want to install solar panels on your French home

Perhaps you are looking to avoid rising energy prices or maybe you are interested in going green. Here are five things you need to know about installing solar panels in France.

Five things to know if you want to install solar panels on your French home
This photo taken on 26 septembre 2018 shows solar panels on the roof of a house in Montmelian, Savoie. (Photo by JEAN-PIERRE CLATOT / AFP)

You can benefit from state-sponsored financial aid

If you want to add solar panels to your French home, you are likely eligible for some form of state aid. 

The first type of state aid you might consider is the “MaPrimeRenov” which is a government sponsored program to make homes more energy efficient in an effort to decrease emissions. If you are interested in this option, you must fill out the form HERE. Then, you will be contacted by a specialist from the fund that will discuss the project with you and offer some advice. If approved, you will be assigned a certified craftsmen to carry out the installation work. Keep in mind this is specifically for photovoltaic panels. 

Other options include the ‘zero rate eco-loan’ which allows you to finance energy renovation work in your home. Typically, the loan is paid out by a bank. It is interest-free and carries a maximum value of €50,000. However, keep in mind it is means-tested, so the amount would depend on your financial status. In order to qualify, you would need to prove the renovation work will improve your home’s energy performance – for which solar panels ought to be eligible. Learn more HERE.

You might also consider the “reduced VAT” – a reduction in the amount you pay on your ‘value added tax.’ You may be eligible for the reduced VAT rate of 5.5 percent, which applies to ‘energy renovation work.’ 

Finally, regional and local assistance exist for adding solar panels. You can find look into this on the website for your département. 

READ MORE: Living in France: How to cut your household energy use by 10% this winter

There are different types: photovaltaic and solar thermal panels

The most common type of solar panel in France is the “photovoltaic solar panel” or PV (Panneau solaire photovoltaïque).

These are typically fixed the roof of the home, and they operate by using photovoltaic cells to generate an electric current when hit by the sun’s rays. 

Within the PV type of solar panel, there are three sub-types in France:

“Monocrystalline silicon cells” – these solar panels are generally black. They are usually space-efficient and are quite long-lasting.

“Polycrystalline silicon cells” – these solar panels have multiple crystals, which gives them a blue colour. They are energy efficient, though they typically do not produce as much electricity as monocrystalline sillicon cells. 

“Amorphous silicon cells” – these have a lower energy yield, and they are best on flat surfaces.

You might also consider “Solar thermal panels.” Instead of producing electricity, they turn solar energy into heat. During the summer, this type of solar panel is capable of providing all the hot water needs for a home, but during winter it may be insufficient. Therefore, you would likely still need to install an auxiliary heating system for low temperatures. Oftentimes, these are less expensive than PV panels. 

READ MORE: French property: How planning permission rules change in 2022

The cost of solar panels

You will need to count on paying for the labour to install and connect your solar panels, as well as for the physical panels themselves. 

Pricing will depend on the power capacity of the panels, but as of 2022 (and without considering any government assistance), you can expect to pay approximately €9,000 to €15,000 to install solar panels in France. 

You can sell the energy produced back to the grid

As a private individual setting up solar panels, you can sell all or part of the electricity the panels produce back to EDF, the French national energy provider. 

However, your purchase rate for electricity will depend on your panels’ power output. To sell all the energy produced back to the grid, you will need to enter into a contract with EDF. Typically, for a “3 kWp” photovoltaic installation, you can expect to get back €0.1790 per kilowatt generated. 

The majority of users choose to sell their energy back via “EDF Obligation d’Achat” which offers 20-year contracts. Keep in mind that this option is only possible if the installation of your solar panels was carried out by an “RGE” qualified professional.

You can also choose to sell your surplus energy – meaning you use the solar panels for your primary needs and then sell the extra electricity produced back to EDF. In this scenario, the level of the premium also depends on how much energy your panels produce.

This has the advantages of going green and being less dependent on the electrical grid, while allowing you to generate some additional income, making your installation profitable more quickly. To qualify for this you must also have the installation done by an RGE qualified professional.

Finally, you can keep and use all of your own energy produced. In French, this is called “L’autoconsommation totale.

You should keep in mind that while this option does allow you to reduce your electricity bills and depend less on the electrical network, it is still quite difficult to be fully autonomous via solar panels, particularly during the winter months. If you go this route, you might want to look into purchasing a battery, which would allow you to store part of the energy produced and use it later. 

You need permission

Before you start installing solar panels, you need to check with several different local authorities to ensure you are doing so legally. First, you need to talk to your town hall (mairie). There may be municipal rules regarding changes you can make to the appearance of your home. This might force you to adapt your choice of solar panel (perhaps simply on the basis of colour). If you need a work permit, city hall would be the government body to give this to you.

Next, you need to speak with your copropriété or syndic, if you want to install panels in a co-owned building. The other co-owners will need to agree. 

Finally, you will need to look into your ‘local urban plan’ (PLU) to determine whether any of the rules regarding land use and the external appearances of buildings would prohibit you from adding solar panels. PLU’s might have specific constrains for installing solar panels, depending on the region. To learn more about this, you can contact your local “Direction départementale des territoires (DDT, which recently replaced the DDE).”

If you are constructing a new building, you will need to mention that you are installing solar panels in the building permit application. 

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French natural gas reserves full ahead of winter

France's natural gas reserves have reached full capacity, a regulator said Wednesday, warning that consumers should still reduce energy use as Europe prepares for a winter mostly shorn of Russian supplies.

French natural gas reserves full ahead of winter

France becomes the third EU nation after Belgium and Portugal to maximise its reserves, well ahead of a government deadline set for November.

Across the EU, gas reserves stand at an average level of 89 percent.

Countries have spent the months since Russia’s February 24 attack on Ukraine scrambling for alternative sources of fuel, including imports of liquid natural gas (LNG).

“The campaign to refill gas storage for winter 2022-23 is complete, with storage more than 99 percent full,” the Energy Regulation Commission (CRE) said in a statement.

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With 130 terawatt-hours (TWh) of gas in stock, higher than the average seen in recent years, France’s supply amounts to around two-thirds of winter consumption by small- to medium-sized businesses and households, the CRE said.

But the body also urged a “massive collective effort to reduce our energy consumption” as supplies could still run tight depending on the winter weather, saying companies, government, local authorities and members of the public must all contribute.

“To prepare for possible tense situations in the coming months, reasonable use of the reserves as well as an effort to limit consumption… seem necessary beginning immediately,” gas storage firms Storengy and Terega agreed in a joint statement.

Most of France’s gas reserves are stored in natural underground spaces such as aquifers dotted around the country.

Russia cut off deliveries of natural gas to France — which has strongly backed sanctions and military aid to Ukraine over Moscow’s invasion of its neighbour – from September 1.

Paris is expected on Thursday to present its “energy sobriety plan” aimed at slashing consumption by 10 percent in two years.

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Looking to the coming months, Storengy and Terega said that the country’s gas supply could remain “balanced overall” in an “average winter” – although there was “little room for manoeuvre”.

But a severe or lasting cold snap could leave supply short of demand by around five percent, forcing measures to cut usage.