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                            - Ren ewable Ene rgy Action -
                                        ( A l t e n e r 2 0 02 - 1 5 7)

Large Scale Deployment of Solar Thermal Technologies
Case study #28 (9 November 2004)
Country: France
Market: heat

1. Summary

The Plan Soleil initiative is dedicated to the dissemination of solar water heating solutions in
the building sector in the three markets segments: hot water production to cover individual
needs (family houses or flats), hot water production for collective purposes (dwellings, hotels,
hospitals) and finally solar heating of houses through the combi-system concept. The “Plan
Soleil” as an initiative was set up with clear objectives in late 1999 for a six year period (2000-
2006) with a support scheme for investments on one side, and a public awareness campaign on
the other side; partnerships with regional bodies (regional councils) were also implemented to
share the burden of the financial cost.

The implementation of this programme started in 5 regions (of a total of 22) with the following
action plan:

    a) a communication campaign was launched: TV spots, advertising in the media,

    b) setting up a qualification scheme for professionals (installers) called “Qualisol”. The
       "Qualisol" Chart contains 10 commitments that installers should accept and adopt
       when signing the Chart and entering the solar market ; training courses are offered,

    c)   a partnership with European manufacturers involved in solar products, was
         established to have a detailed presentation of their products (ADEME and CSTB or
         Centre Scientifique et Technique du Bâtiment shared responsibility in leading surveys
         and assessment work in these fields). From this first experience, the decision to widen
         the scope of the initiative was taken to 9 regions (2001) and then to the 22 regions

    d) the support scheme included from the beginning a subsidy support for individual
       solar water heaters: from 920 euros on the average per system in 2000 to 700 euros in
       2004 combined with a fiscal incentive which is a tax break on personal income tax
       calculated on the basis of 15 % of investment costs for individuals and then 40 % in
       2005. As far as combi-systems (space solar heating) are concerned, the subsidy scheme
       set up led to higher incentives to take into account the over-costs of this technology
       (over costs of 10 000 euros on the average per system): subsidy support of maximum
       2,700 euros. A tax break on personal income tax of 40 % is being introduced with effect
       in 2005. The collective use of solar water heating was supported from the beginning at
       the level of 400 euros per m2 of solar collector (representing 60 % of investment costs)
       reduced to 350 euros per m2 in 2005. The focus was given in this first period (2000-
       2003) to developing solar applications in the household area (family houses); then

Case study # 28 – Large Scale Deployment of Solar Thermal Technologies                           1
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        from 2003, the focus was shifted also to collective applications of solar hot water when
        addressing awareness campaign and partnership schemes. By 2004, all the segments of
        the solar water heating market are covered.

The development of this initiative (Plan Soleil) was decided on the basis of a strong
involvement of the private sector (manufacturers and installer’s organisations) in order to
have a long term approach of the programme (a six year programme) which could be
sustainable and durable both from the point of view of private implication and from public
acceptance of these solutions. The Department of Industry (Ministry of Economy) was also
strongly supporting this initiative as it was seen as a priority sector of development of
renewables on the market after the positive experience of introducing solar products overseas
in the French islands from 1996.

By 1999, the solar market was developing fast in the islands (Reunion island and the
Caribbean islands) and was unknown in France (continent) itself as a result of a lack of
political interest and of regional commitment to develop renewables. Only a few
demonstration projects showed at that time that hot water produced from solar technologies
was interesting: hotels and hospitals with the GSR concept (GSR / guarantee of solar results
which was designed in France with the support of the European Commission and then
applied in Spain).

The targets formulated for the future (by 2006):

        18 700 individual solar water heaters per year (78 700 m2/year) with a cumulative
        objective of 219 000 m2 (or 52 000 solar water heaters) on the period 2000-2006,

        1,200 combi-systems installed each year (18 100 m2) with a cumulative objective of
        4 400 equipments installed (or 66 000 m2) on the same period of time,

        15 000 m2 per year of solar collectors installed in collective applications (mainly social
        dwellings) with a cumulative objective of 48 000 m2 on the same period of time,

        the overall objective is to reach at least 1,000,000 m2 per year of glazed solar collectors
        installed by 2010 (in continental France) in addition to what will be installed in the
        French islands (80 000 m2 per year by 2010).

Typical collective solar application (large scale)

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2. Description of the case

The implementing phase of the programme “Plan soleil” took place in early 1999 on the basis
of a market survey which was launched to establish an assessment of the nature of incentives
to be put in place focusing first on individual solar water heaters. The board of ADEME
agreed then formally in May 1999 on the way this programme will be implemented (support
scheme). Two important decisions were also adopted: the setting up of a national committee to
review the systems eligible to support from ADEME and the Regional Councils (committee
members: experts from trade-unions, technical centres) and of a quality chart (called
“Qualisol”) to be signed by installers whishing to join the programme. The first decisions
concerning supporting aids to the deployment of solar thermal technologies were based on:
920 euros per domestic solar water heaters (3 to 5 m2) from ADEME to be coupled with an
additional support from regional councils and 400 euros per m2 of solar collector for collective
applications. As far as combi-systems are concerned, the decision by 2000 was to keep in place
a demonstration programme with an energy assessment of the systems offered to the public
(on site).

The decision was taken to lower the support offered to 700 euros by 2004 (collector surface 3 to
5 m2) coupled to the same amount offered by regional councils. By 2005, a new scheme will be
put in place with fiscal incentives: 40 % tax break on personal income tax and a support from
regional councils (500 to 700 euros per systems).

A detailed description of the programme “Plan Soleil” and the solar systems eligible to
support from public funds is given on the web site of ADEME:

The communication aspects of this programme are essential; a public awareness campaign
was launched in 2000 and then each following years (from 5 regions for the first year to 22
regions by 2002, 2003 and 2004) with the use of a call centre (toll free number, TV spots and
advertising in newspapers and specialised magazines). The average annual budget of
communication (2000-2004) was 0.8 millions euros spent by ADEME itself. From 2005, this
public awareness campaign will be included in a more general communication activity on
Climate Change and on solutions to lower green house gas emissions.

Leaflets, documents for the Public awareness campaign “Plan Soleil”

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Manufacturers, installers and their association ENERPLAN made also an effort on their side to
be present in terms of communication activities.

Joint activities were also decided such as: the co-edition between ADEME and ENERPLAN of
a leaflet called “Qualisol Infos” (edited 3 to 4 times per year), the presence in different
professional exhibitions (Bâtimat, Interclimat). A seminar is organised each year with the
German solar industry association to address common point of interests concerning marketing

Since 2003, the decision was taken also to share the promotional activities with the energy
producers and distributors: mainly Gaz de France (GDF) through their campaign “Dolce Vita“,
Primagaz, and EDF through their promotional campaign called “Vivrelec”. Common
documentation has been edited in close cooperation with ADEME as a partner. The energy
frame law discussed in the Parliament in June 2004 and to be adopted next year (2005) will
provide new tools: certificates to be issued and marketed for promoting energy efficiency on
behalf of the energy distributors.

ADEME is the key coordination actor in relation with manufacturers, installers, and all
professional organisations. Its decentralised organisation (regional offices in 22 regions) was
very important when the initiative was launched; partnership with regional councils has been
developed to support the dissemination activities and share the financial burden (period 2000-

R&D activities in relation with the “Plan Soleil” programme have been developed in different
fields of interest such as energy performance of solar systems in relation with the solar heating
and cooling task of the IEA (particularly for combi-sytems), development of new cooling
techniques, advanced solar systems for collective applications (monitoring…). The annual
budget for R&D in this field is 1.5 million euros.

Solar cooling in Southern France: the first installation of this type in operation

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Supportive actors were: professional organisations, energy producers, technical centres (CSTB,
COSTIC), regional councils, regional energy agencies, local communities.

The quality of components or systems have been addressed since the beginning of the project
through screening the products offered on the market, as their energy performance assessment
and technical appraisal of security and durability through tests conducted according to French
norms (these tests are performed in the CSTB laboratories: “avis technique” procedure) or
according to European norms and tests carried out by European laboratories in compliance
with European procedures. France introduced a certification scheme of solar products called
CSTBât which is based on European norms. Other European certification schemes are
welcomed in the future; manufacturers have to provide detailed information on these
certification schemes (Solar Key Mark for example). This is a condition to be eligible to
subsidy. In the future, the "Solar Keymark" is seen as the solution if manufacturers apply.

Qualification of installers on the solar market was an issue since the early implementation of
the programme in 2000 through the definition of a Quality Chart “Qualisol” which was well
received by the market players. Training activities were developed and proposed on the
market for installers not aware of the specific features of solar systems. More than 4 000 small
companies (installers) joined the “Qualisol” quality scheme which is free of charge by the end
of 2003. The “Qualisol Info” leaflet is also a link which has been appreciated. To be more
supportive from a marketing point of view, a video has also been prepared to help installers
presenting solar thermal equipment to their potential clients. ADEME is distributing 1,000 of
these videos (2004).

3. Results

        Volume growth (m2 of solar collectors installed): 6 350 m2 (2000), 17 650 m2 (2001),
        23 400 m2 (2002), 39 000 m2 (2003), 55 000 m2 (expected in 2004). The 2006 perspective
        is 112 000 m2 per year. The medium term objective (by 2010) is more ambitious: at
        least 1 000 000 m2 per year (new energy law being discussed in the Parliament).

        Technology improvement: solar technologies are progressing with more than 30
        European manufacturers being present on the French national market (2004).

        Market penetration: market penetration of solar technologies is still modest at this
        stage (by 2004). For the long term (2010), an obligation to use solar technologies to
        meet the thermal requirements in the building sector (energy performance to be
        reached: 50 kWh/ m2 / a in new buildings) could boost the solar market above the
        level foreseen (from 200 000 m2 to above 1 000 000 m2). The new energy law in
        discussion in the Parliament (2004) could be a major event to help giving a legal
        pressure on deciders (new buildings).

        Energy savings: the energy savings linked with the dissemination of solar technologies
        are well known (solar contribution could cover from 20 to 80 % of energy needs for
        producing hot water, considering the technology and the field of application). The
        monitoring programme put in place (instrumentation “in situ”) will be giving the

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        right energy contribution (domestic solar water heaters with an electric or gas back-
        up, and combi-sytems).

        Economics (e.g. competitiveness, cost reduction, or established interests): cost
        reduction already took place when considering the collective applications of solar
        technologies (hotels, social dwellings) with a decrease of 30 % of investment costs
        (2000-2003 period). When considering domestic solar water heaters, the decrease was
        not there as the market opened to German manufacturers in 2002 having higher costs
        than French ones. The average cost of acquisition of a solar water heater is between
        4 500 and 5 000 euros (4 m2). A decrease of this cost is the target in the medium term
        (2006-2010) but the quality of the service offered is more important than price

The 2006 objectives have to be redefined in 2004 according to market growth rate observed.
The quantity aspects have to be considered in line with other objectives as important such as
quality of service, durability and energy performances. This adjustment was seen as a realistic
procedure. Reaching a first level of 100 000 m2/year (continental France) is considered as a
decisive step which has to be followed by a new market expansion towards 1 000 000 m2 by

4. Evaluation: Main elements of success and problems

The installer’s network is the key point: success will be reached in the long term if the solar
market is seen as a serious option for small and medium businesses which are discovering a
new market. Public awareness is progressing very fast and the demand is now increasing
steadily. The challenge is to meet the demand in terms of marketing procedures.

The market driving force is the demand evolution, the general public being more and more
environmentally conscious; solar products are seen as an answer to the greenhouse emission
dilemma. The manufacturers are providing the right solutions with a wide range of products
and prices (more than 20 European manufacturers are on the French market). Role of
competitors is becoming a new issue to be addressed: heat pumps could be seen as the main
competitor in the short to medium term (particularly in new constructions). This market of
heat pumps is expanding quite fast (8 000 units per year installed for the highest energy
standards) with an outlook for 20 000 units installed by 2010.

Technology performance is not seen by clients as the key element in the first place. Individuals
are not calculating return of investment ratio but are convinced by simple arguments such as
the energy contribution to produce hot water (from 20 to 80 %). Public or private companies
being interested by solar solutions are more profit oriented. The cost of investment (being
around 600 to 800 euros per m2 of solar collectors) is an important aspect in this case.
Increase competition between solar collector manufacturers and system integrators is a very
important aspect to address in future as the competitors are quite few on the market when
focusing on collective markets (collective applications: social dwellings, hotels and hospitals).

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5. Objectives for further development

Targets (qualitative and quantitative): solar market developed more rapidly than expected in
the island context since 1996 but on the continent, launching a specific initiative called Plan
Soleil was a necessity as solar technologies were unknown in 1999. Market deployment is a
reality even if the initial targets have to be adjusted in 2003. The annual growth of the market
being 40 % per year, higher objectives don’t seem realistic today for the long term (with
1 000 000 m2 per year by 2010). An obligation to adopt solar solutions in new buildings could
lead to higher market volumes by 2010. From a qualitative point of view, quality of products
and services supplied by professionals could not be better. A more active marketing attitude
from installers is expected in the medium term.

Monitoring have been put in place (audits are conducted on a random basis) to check quality
of service. Combi-systems are particularly concerned as the solar contribution is difficult to
monitor. As far as collective applications of solar technologies are concerned, the Solar
Guarantee of Results (SGR) is used for large installation over 50 m2; for smaller installations, a
light SGR is promoted.

New energy policy options are discussed with a national debate which was organised in 2003.
The new energy law will focus in priority on energy efficiency and on the role of energy
services. Energy suppliers will have a key role to play in the future to provide more
environmentally friendly solutions to their clients. The challenge is to implement new financial
instruments based on energy efficiency (certificates could be the solution as it is the case in

Solar activities are more and more included in the service portfolios of energy suppliers (EDF,
GDF and others). Conflicts of interests seem quite limited. The conflict is between different
technological options: solar technologies and heat pumps. But hybrid solutions could be a
possible answer in the future.

6. Conclusions

The French initiative to boost the solar thermal market was designed on a times scale
compatible with the professionals involvement and with clear quality requirements.
Permanent support from ADEME as a state agency and of regional councils provided the
necessary stimulus to promote activities but the idea to achieve cost reduction of solar
solutions in the long term and a self sustained market which will require a different kind of
support (energy efficiency certificates and an obligation to include solar solutions in

Having an active installer’s network is a very complicated issue; long term approach is
necessary with training activities but also innovative market approaches. Competition in the
building sector as far as hot water production or space heating is concerned, will be more
present with the interest for heat pumps.

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France tried to learn from the German experience on how to implement a durable deployment
of a solar market with the support of decentralised and experienced relays to provide
information, assistance and advice to end-users. The French network of 300 EIE called “Espace
Information Energie” is helping disseminating information through the country.

France, Italy and Spain shared the same solar potential. Germany and Austria have a long
experience on how to develop the solar applications.

The implementation of the French solar programme could be an example for other countries in
terms of decentralised management (regions involved), of quality insurance provided and of
public awareness campaigns involved. All the tools, documents developed since 1999 could be
provided in different forms (leaflets, CD ROM, Videos ...) for all countries interested. The
involvement of professionals, manufacturers at European scale is a key parameter of success.
The lack of an European solar market in terms of standardised products (the future of the
European key mark) is a strong limitation: tests could be harmonised in favour of a unique
and global solar market with a price effect.

7. Contact information

ADEME, the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management
Mr. Philppe Beutin

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