As in many other European countries, France’s buildings still rely heavily on fossil fuels for space heating and hot water production. This is troublesome considering these uses account for more than one-third of the country’s final energy consumption. The move to clean heating technologies such as heat pumps is therefore pivotal for the country’s transition to a sustainable energy system.

Yet there is cause for optimism. French policymakers have paired a national low-carbon strategy with a multi-year energy plan to decarbonise all sectors. For buildings, France committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 49% by 2030 and to reaching full decarbonisation by 2050. The nation is also a European leader in heat pump adoption and manufacturing. Other countries could learn from its tiered subsidy schemes that make heat pumps affordable for most, with targeted programmes that benefit low-income households. These policies removed financial support for individual gas boilers and restricted their installation in new buildings. In the meantime, the carbon price on heating fuels has improved the relative economics of heat pumps compared to their fossil-fuel counterparts.

The challenges France still faces also offer lessons. The country faces rising upfront costs for heat pumps, and the complexity of its subsidy framework makes it difficult to navigate. The nation also struggles with negative perceptions of heat pumps because of fraudulent practices by individuals seeking to exploit state subsidies.

After exploring France’s successes and its economic barriers to heat pump deployment, RAP offers the following recommendations for French policymakers tackling the transition to clean heat:

  • Streamline the grant application process and simplify the wide variety of technology categories.
  • Provide comprehensive and clear technical guidance to consumers, including identifying cost-effective solutions and defining the necessary conditions for a hybrid heat pump system.
  • Focus technology-specific financial support on air-source heat pumps. Make support for hybrid heat pumps contingent on a technical review by an energy expert and their recommendation in heating and cooling plans from the local government.