Winter is coming. And this is a problem as according to the latest official statistics, one French citizen out of five has trouble paying his / her heating bills or is feeling cold at home in winter. And as a French who wrote his Master’s thesis on that topic, this really bugs me.
A white paper published in the second Chirac presidency – 2003 – stated that there were at the time almost 20 million housings to weatherize and insulate in France.
Over ten years after, these figures are still almost the same as the goal of improving half a million housings per year wasn’t met either by President Jacques Chirac, his successor Nicolas Sarkozy and the incumbent. And this despite, the recent moderate efforts in this domain.
State and local ( from the Région or the Département ) aids have been cut because of the crisis and the resulting austerity. And when they haven’t been cut they are either difficult to obtain or too little to represent any convenience. The French Environment and Energy Management Agency, the ADEME, has seen its budget been cut in 2013 ( by half a billion euros, no less ) and in 2014.
But what really racks my nerves is that very little is done to insulate social housings, which represent four million accommodations and 14 million people out of 65 million.
In an old article I wrote as early as 2007 I noted that these housings are all too often badly insulated and that the tenants don’t have much money to pay gas and oil bills. However, I noted back then that insulating these buildings and changing the heating systems were a very sound investment.
In an example broadcasted by the French/German TV channel Arte the energy needs of two buildings in Germany were more than halved thanks to insulation. Energy conservation efforts were promoted, cutting energy needs by an additional 15 percent.
As a conclusion, the energy now needed there was nearly cut by a factor three. This made it possible to use a renewable energy source to heat the 64 flats. Wood pellets were chosen and a new highly efficient boiler was installed. The new system is so efficient that it can generate some electricity which can be used by the tenants or sold to the grid.
Imagine if all social housings in France, and let’s be ambitious in the European Union , were receiving the same treatment. Dozens of millions of people wouldn’t be cold at home during winter, thousands of jobs would be created for decades and our dependence on Russian natural gas would be cut for ever.