The French rush to solar panels

This is one of the few consensual topics in the world of renewable energies. The self-consumption of electricity thanks to solar panels has never been so successful in France with individuals and, now, companies, all concerned with reducing their bills or limiting their surge.

At the end of June, 871 MW were already installed (i.e. 6% of the photovoltaic park), spread over 184,000 sites, and 207 MW were being connected, according to data from Enedis, the EDF subsidiary responsible for the distribution. As a reminder, there were only 3,000 self-consumption sites in 2015. Requests continue to flow in and the pace is accelerating.

“The objective is not to cover 100% of a household’s electrical needs, but at least 30% or even more, as long as you change your consumption habits by running your equipment during the day”, estimates Marie Juyaux, the managing director of Oscaro, one of the leaders of the market of the solar panels, whose sales were multiplied by four in one year.

Modular kits

The sharp increase expected in the prices of regulated electricity tariffs (+15% at the start of 2023), should make it possible to reduce the return on investment, currently around a dozen years, even if the prices of the panels have started to fall again. rise. The cost of installations is still very variable. For around ten panels, with a total power of 3 kilowatts-peak (kWp, maximum power in standard conditions), the turnkey price is generally around €8,000 on average.

But professionals are increasingly playing the card of modular kits to assemble yourself and simplicity, which lowers costs. This is the case, for example, of Beem Energy, a young Nantes start-up, which promises installation in less than an hour on a wall or on the floor, to be plugged directly into a socket, from €780. . Its four 350 kWh panels represent the annual equivalent of the consumption of a fridge, an Internet box, a laptop and five LED bulbs, assures the company.

A bad image still to be erased

“Solar is becoming more democratic, whereas until now it mainly affected an audience of activists. The desire to control consumption and save money has become as important as the ecological impact”, says CEO and co-founder Ralph Feghali of Beem Energy.

Referenced by Leroy Merlin, the company is experiencing exponential growth. It sold its first megawatt of panels eighteen months after its launch. During the last quarter, it marketed an additional megawatt, a rate it now expects to reach every month.

Despite everything, the sector continues to drag a bad image behind it, due to multiple scams linked to incompetent installers. “The market is improving, even if everything is not yet perfect. But this still remains an obstacle to the development of self-consumption,” points out Gérard Moine, who founded Solarcoop, a cooperative that supports individuals in their approach and has a network of approved professionals. Energy renovation consulting companies, such as Effy or Hello Watt, do the same.

Absent from the bill on the acceleration of renewables

In France, administrative complexity is also an obstacle. “We have the greatest difficulty in getting the public authorities interested in moving even faster. It is incomprehensible that residential solar is totally absent from the bill on the acceleration of renewables”, regrets Audrey Zermati, director of strategy at Effy, which specializes in energy renovation. And to remember that Belgium alone has more self-consumption sites than France, despite less sunshine.

Agnès Pannier-Runacher, the Minister for Energy Transition, nevertheless said she was in favor of introducing amendments on the subject, during the parliamentary discussion scheduled for this fall.

Administrative obstacles and little tax incentive

Many town halls thus continue to require that the panels be integrated into the roof, even if this is no longer an obligation at the state level. It is also necessary to file a request for work, which extends the deadlines. The installation premium also remains quite low, since it only covers around 10% of the amount, and there are no low-rate bank loans to finance the rest.

The VAT rates are also not the same depending on the power: 10% below 3 kW, 20% above, i.e. the majority of projects, which pushes households to reduce their ambitions. Professionals are thus calling for the introduction of a 5.5% VAT as for all energy renovation work.


Strong growth

Self-consumption today represents approximately 7% of French photovoltaic production.

Since the beginning of the energy crisis, last fall, the number of installation projects jumped 170%.

About 400 MW should be connected this year, against 250 MW in 2021. Enerplan, the trade union, which calls for the establishment of a “solar gigashield”estimates that an additional gigawatt (GW) could be installed in 2023.

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