Abolition of energy-saving incentives worries French building sector

The €2 billion of financial aid to boost energy renovation in France’s COVID recovery plan may not be enough to compensate for the abolition of financial assistance provided to households under the so-called “energy saving certificates” – or CEEs – EURACTIV France reports.

France’s energy renovation market has recovered. By the end of 2020, it reached the levels attained in the fourth quarter of 2019, just before the COVID-19 crisis started to bite.

But despite this, there are concerns that the abolition of aid under the French energy saving certificates in July 2021 will leave the French “Ma Prime Rénov’” scheme without enough support, slowing down the rate of renovation across the country.

“In the fourth quarter of 2020, we saw that a dynamic had been set in motion thanks to Ma Prime Rénov’,” the French Building Federation (FFB) told EURACTIV in reference to the tax credit for energy-efficient renovations launched in 2020.

“But the abolition of the CEE incentives in July 2021 will once again disrupt the game. We will feel it during the year, in the second quarter and beyond,” the federation said.

Building renovation is a key aspect of Europe’s green recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the European Commission, which launched a renovation wave across the EU in October, renovation is a win-win-win for the economy, the climate and homeowners who can reduce their energy bills.

Depending on their location or history, EU countries have taken different approaches to renovation programmes. The Czech Republic, for instance, is using revenues from the emissions trading scheme to renovate private housing. Italy, for its part, is putting forward its ‘Super Ecobonus‘ scheme, effectively paying homeowners to improve energy efficiency by funding 110% of the costs.

In France, the energy saving certificate is an additional aid allocated to the most modest households in order to support energy renovation.

In addition to the “Ma Prime Rénov’” scheme, the CEE has made it possible to carry out “the insulation of nearly 1.5 million homes and the replacement of around 550,000 boilers” between 2019 and 2020, according to the FFB, which calls it “a great success”.

“In these files, there was often a combination of CEE and Ma Prime Rénov’. Without this part of the CEE subsidy, on insulation and boiler work, these markets will slow down a little, and we will not experience the expected dynamic,” FFB warned.

National renovation plans falling short of EU’s 2050 climate goal: study

The long-term renovations strategies that EU countries submitted last year to the European Commission are not in line with the bloc’s objective of reaching climate-neutrality by 2050, according to fresh analysis due to be published this week.

The changes in France’s renovation subsidy scheme is happening at the same time as the Ma Prime Rénov’ scheme is being extended to cover also wealthy households, landlords, and co-owners as of January 2021.

“As of today, all owners, landlords, occupants and co-owners can benefit, whatever their level of resources, state support to initiate ecological renovation work,” said Barbara Pompili, the French minister for the ecological transition. “It is a big step forward to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to improve purchasing power and quality of life for millions of French people,” she said in a statement released on 11 January.

However, the move raised questions at the FFB. “With a maximum aid of €14,000, wealthy households will not be able to finance major works [which] can easily amount to €60,000,” the FFD pointed out, saying these households “are not eligible to finance basic work such as changing the boiler.”

More broadly, the building sector is concerned about a slowdown in the recovery. And the termination of energy saving certificates is seen as a setback in this context.

French Housing Minister Emmanuelle Wargon has talked up the benefits of MaPrimeRénov’, saying “this bonus is essential to help the French improve the comfort of their homes, reduce their energy bills and support the economic activity of construction workers.”

But the FFB is less enthusiastic, particularly since energy renovation work represents only 25% of the market share, compared with 48% for the new building sector, which is collapsing.

“There may be a few more jobs in renovation but, if nothing is done, this will not compensate for future losses,” the FFB said.

French citizens want better homes. Why are politicians standing in their way?

If it enshrines into its upcoming climate bill mandatory building renovation, France will answer the Citizens’ Convention on Climate’s call for better homes and contribute significantly to the EU’s 55% emission reduction target by 2030, writes Etienne Charbit.



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