Zero Carbon Compendium


'Of particular significance is France's agenda for technological change to ensure that new buildings should be energy positive, producing more energy than they consume by 2020'

Key Facts

Country Population:62.8 m
Capital Population:10.4 m
Area:545, 630 km²
Density:118 people/km²

National Carbon Overview

French consumers enjoy some of the cheapest energy prices in the OECD and the country has one of the lowest levels of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) per unit of GDP in the world. This is largely the result of significant investment in nuclear power, which contributes to 79% of the country's primary energy. France is also the largest net exporter of electricity globally, with 18% of production leaving the country, and is a major supplier for other European countries. The government has been commended for its focus on energy security.

In the construction sector, voluntary environmental certification has given way to a range of regulatory codes aimed at reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions by 75% by 2050 and to provide 23% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020. In France, new regulations apply nationwide from the outset, despite the challenge of meeting the requirements of eight different temperature zones. The release of Energy Performance Certificates in 2006 requires all new homes for sale to undergo energy performance evaluation and receive energy performance certificate which details the level of energy consumption and GHG emissions. As of July 2007, this scheme is also required for all rental properties.

Of particular significance is the agenda for technological change to ensure that all new buildings comply with the government's low-consumption standard and that by 2020, new buildings should be energy positive, producing more energy than they consume.[1]


Exemplar Project

Salvatierra Apartments
Rennes, Beauregard, France

Salvatierra Apartments. Coop de Construction.

Salvatierra Apartments were part of a set of case studies for the CEPHEUS (Cost Efficient Passive Houses as European Standards) project between 1998 and 2001, which applied German Passivhaus standards on a European Scale. The largest of the case studies, Salvatierra has 40 two- to six-room solar-optimised apartments under cooperative ownership. The design has the main façade facing south, composed largely of glass in order to promote passive solar gain. The south walls are also made of loam, which provides humidity control and high thermal inertia (in combination with glass walls and concrete slabs).

Other features include an airtight building envelope, argon-filled double glazing, two-way ventilation with heat recovery and additional air intake heating by an urban heating plant. It also includes solar panels for hot water, with supplementary heat supply from the district heat network.

The timber-framed walls with hemp insulation have a U-value of 0.21 W/m2K. The actual energy performance was 41 kWh/m2/year for heating (107 kWh/m2/year total) – still a low-energy building but not ultra-low (Passivhaus) standard.[3]

Policy and Targets

Under the EU burden-sharing agreement of the Kyoto Protocol, France has committed to keeping its emissions at 1990 levels until 2012. The French government has set a target for decreasing GHG emissions by 75% by 2050 based on 1990 levels. Under the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2008, the government has set a goal of reducing energy consumption in residential construction by 2013, and by more than one-third by 2020.

France has introduced the White Certificate Trading scheme, an innovation which requires supplier of energy to meet government mandated targets for energy savings through promoting energy saving to residential and tertiary customers. Those who exceed or undercut the objectives can trade certificates as required for compliance, or face fines of €0.02/kWh.

Existing Frameworks

The Thermal Regulation (RT2005) introduced stringent regulations for thermal insulation and heating systems in 2002 for new and existing buildings. The regulation aims to reduce the use of air conditioning and limit the use of electricity for heating, cooling, domestic hot water, lighting and ventilation. The latest updated version is expected to be released in 2012, with a new yearly maximum consumption of 50 kWh/m2 for new buildings.

The Haute Qualité Environnementale (HQE, ''High Environmental Quality') is a green building standard based on the principles of sustainable development set out during the UN 1992 Earth Summit. In 2009 the UK's BRE signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CSTB (one of the organisations behind HQE) to develop a pan-European environmental building assessment method. It is hoped that this will then develop into a common assessment throughout the EU.

Support, Incentives and Grants

In 2007, the French government implemented a €10bn fund offering low-interest loans to domestic energy conservation projects. Called the Livret de Développement Durable, loans are available through banks and can be used for the installation of energy efficient boilers, thermal insulation, thermal regulation equipment, renewables, wood or biomass based space and water heating equipment, & heat pumps. This can be used in conjunction with tax credits for primary residents introduced in 2005, for purchases of products and installation of energy-saving products and appliances.[2] 

The Eco Loan program is more limited, but provides interest free loans for loft insulation, and other types of work as listed above, but must be a package of works and not just a single element. It is anticipated that energy savings will allow the consumer to repay the capital. The amount of the loan is up to €20,000 for two elements of energy conservation, and up to €30,000 for three or more, but eligible properties are limited to those constructed before 1st January 1990.



  1. Kitson, Matthew and Daclin, Julien. (2008). Green Construction Standards for France. Building Sustainable Design.
  2. International Energy Agency. Energy Efficiency: Policies and Measures Database.
  3. The CEPHEUS Subprojects.
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