CHANGES IN THE PAST AND THE FUTURE The biggest change faced by the French district heating market during the past years may well be that whereas renewable energy accounted for 40 % ten years ago, the number has now changed to 52 %. This is quite an increase, and one to be rather proud of. In addition to this, plants are being converted (e.g. from coal) to biomass, etc. Another factor with an impact is a new territorial organization in public authorities: on one side the “syndicat d’énergie” (a grouping of rural cities and villages to act together), and on the other side the “metropole”, which is a grouping of a big city with the cities in the neighborhood that will act together in the development of district heating and cooling. A challenge in the future could be to find enough farm land for the solar panels. The eco quartiers are mainly located in districts that still have some lands, but also have a big advantage for solar sources - the new buildings only need low temperatures for heat, which is a big opportunity for solar energy and reused heat from the sanitation network, for instance. Besides, what is positive is that due to third generation district heating, district cooling can play an even bigger part and become more prominent in these districts. Thanks to the new territorial organization, both with the “metropole” and “syndicat d’énergie”, France can expect a growth of medium-sized district heating plants in the next years. Another change to anticipate is that in the future, municipalities will have a bigger role to play. This is due to two factors, namely the desire by the municipality to be engaged in the market, and the waiting of the citizens to be more involved in the projects of the territories. Traditionally, the situation for district heating in France is that around 20 % (in terms of energy delivered) is owned by the municipalities, mainly small district heating systems, and 80 % by partnerships by large energy companies, mainly the biggest district heating systems. However, this is about to change, as the 20 % will be doubled within the next 15 years.
Natural gas is still the main fuel source for district heating in France and tends to replace other fossil fuels with a higher carbon footprint, namely coal and oil. Renewables or recovered energy are used by a majority of heat networks (77 % in 2015). In the last ten years, there has been an increase of 1 % per year of the percentage of renewable energy in the national mix. Waste-to-energy is by far the main resource used but biomass plants are developing rapidly. Regarding district cooling, France has a total installed capacity of 719 MWth, representing one of the most extensive networks within Europe. District cooling is under constant development in France, as the cooling demand is growing, and special working groups are dealing with ways to qualify the renewable methods to produce cooling. There are huge differences between the different types of district heating in France. In terms of size, the areas are varying from as short as 300 meters with only few houses connected (around 10 houses and public facilities) to connections of 20-30 km with 60-80 buildings connected. The energy mix in French district heating is divided on incineration/waste with about 50 %, biomass 20 %, and the rest, industrial heat, geothermal, solar etc. Mostly present in dense urban areas, district heating and cooling are now supplied with 53 % of renewable energy and recovery. One source that is not used as much as it could or should is solar. However, an increase in the use of solar district heating in the future can be expected. In general, the French market is anticipating a growth in the sector, primarily concerning the medium-sized district heating systems located in eco quartiers (eco districts). In this sector, there is still land that can be used for the solar panel, and the energy demand is at a good level, in terms of low temperature, to be produced by solar energy.
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