Green Renovations Are Riding High In France

By: Matthieu Cany

Is this the start of a green wave? 75,000 interest free eco-loans have been granted by French banks since the scheme started on the 1st of April 2009. "A good start" according to the French Banking Federation (FBF), especially as the result meets the objectives fixed by the Grenelle de l'environement, an open multi-party debate instigated by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2007 to define key points of public policy on sustainable development issues for the coming 5 years. Indeed they hope to reach 200 000 loans over 2009-2010.

The no interest eco-loan allows individuals to finance works which improve energy efficiency in their main residence (it is not available for holiday homes). The green loan can be up to 30,000 and repaid over 10 years. According to the FBF, the average amount of this first wave of eco-loans is roughly 17,000 .

Although off to a promising start, the system remains complex and may put some people off. There aren't any fund conditions but there are certain restrictions. For example one cannot simply replace the windows. One must choose 2 or 3 different works to be carried out from an official list, or reach a specific level of global energy performance after the work has been carried out. Additionally, the loan only concerns properties built before 1990. As for those who choose to increase the energy performance of their home, the dwelling will have to have been built since 1947.

The FBF estimates that the authorities have not provided enough clarification or simplification, which would accelerate and increase the number of projects.

The French Agency for Environment and Energy Management started a campaign last week, communicating all one needs to know about eco-loans. Florence Clement, who works for the Agency, recognises that the system is complex even though the principle is simple: "It's about subsidising the most efficient and coherent works, and avoiding the patch-up jobs. There's no point in replacing the windows if the rest of the house leaks energy." In order to get a more global picture of the work to be done, the Agency recommends turning to independent energy advisors, present throughout France for further advice.