In France, the installation of solar panels can come with many benefits, one of which is selling the electricity produced to the national grid.
All energy providers are required to buy back electricity produced by solar panels - depending on the type of installations and contract - from either businesses or individual homes.
This can either be done by selling all of your solar energy to the grid, using electricity from the panels and selling the surplus, or by returning your surplus for free, in exchange for a government grant.
With a few rules and regulations in place, this article explains the required steps to sell energy from your panels.
Which set-up needs to be used?
The most important thing to note is that not all solar panel installations can benefit from selling energy to the grid.
There are two main types of installations - photovoltaic panels and solar thermal panels.
You can sell energy from your photovoltaic panels, which convert sunlight energy into electricity. But not from solar thermal panels, which convert solar radiation into heat, and are used to produce hot water from the sun.
The two systems are not mutually exclusive, however, and can be installed on roofs together as solar thermal panels are linked to a home’s water heating system, whereas photovoltaic panels correspond to electricity generation and can be linked to the national energy grid.
Solar panel hot water systems are expensive (at least €6,000 for an installed kit to replace a standard hot water boiler, costing €300 plus half a day’s plumber fees). It is likely to take nearly 20 years before it pays for itself, unless electricity prices soar.
Photovoltaic panels can be installed using home installation kits. Although the government recommends only using installators approved on the RGE (Reconnu Garant de l'Environnement) register this is not a legal requirement.
You can install kits to produce your own electricity and sell the surplus as long as you get a certificate of conformity from the Consuel (Comité National pour la Sécurité des Usagers de l’Electricité). Kit providers, like Oscaro Power say they will help you do this and also help you with a buyer for your electricity.
The government runs an tradesperson RGE (Reconnu Garant de l'Environnement) register. You can find approved tradespeople local to you using the official search site, but it is not always up to date – some tradespeople let RGE certificates slip because they are expensive and they have plenty of work outside the RGE system.
Only installations of a certain size can benefit - they must be smaller than 100,000Wc (watt-crête, the unit in France for measuring solar production and sometimes quoted as
Kilowatts-crête for larger installations) to sell electricity.
After installing your panels, you should contact Enedis, the EDF subsidiary that manages the energy grid in France, to connect your system to the network.
You will need to provide documentation including s proof of planning permission (all installations on roofs or higher than 1.8m from the ground need to be registered with the mairie with a déclaration préalable de travaux).
You will also need to obtain a certificate of conformity proving that your installation is safe from the Consuel (Comité National pour la Sécurité des Usagers de l’Electricité), or an attestation of conformity from the kit provider, suitable with pre-cabled kits
Specifically, you will need an attestation bleue, as you are connecting your installation to the national grid.
You can pay in advance for the certificate to be sent to you, and it can usually be filled out by the tradesperson installing your solar panels. Somebody may come and check the installation, especially if it is a DIY installation, but in most other cases, it will be approved right away.
How much could I make?
It is important to highlight there are three ways of selling electricity from solar panels back to the grid.
Via the Tarif d’Achat, where solar panels are installed with the sole purpose of selling all electricity produced to the grid
Via the autoconsommation with sale of surplus option
Via the prime à l’autoconsommation, where a set-up is installed to meet the building’s energy needs, with excess electricity then sent back to the grid free of charge, but with a pre-set bonus for choosing this option
The good news is that all of these can apply to second-home owners in France.
If you only want to sell your surplus energy as opposed to all your energy produced, you are only eligible for the prime à l’autoconsommation.
With this, you are not directly “selling” your surplus production, but being paid a bonus for giving the energy back to the state, regardless of how much or little you give back.
The amount you earn from the prime is scaled depending on the size of an installation - smaller installations earn more per kWc (the solar energy unit), and progressively larger installations earn less until the benefit no longer applies.
Even though larger installations have a higher bonus ceiling, they will have expensive installation costs and generally produce huge amounts of surplus energy (especially if a large installation is in place for a small property).
This bonus is paid out twice a year over five years, with prices set by the government, based on recommendations by the Commission de régulation de l'énergie (CRE).
Prices are updated every three months, and the latest figures for the first quarter of 2023 are:
€500 per kWc for an installation up to 3,000Wc (a maximum bonus of €1;500)
€370 per kWc for an installation between 3,001 and 9,000Wc (a maximum bonus of €3,300)
€210 per kWc for an installation of 9,001 to 36,000Wc (a maximum of €7,560)
€110 per kWc for an installation between 36,001 and 100,000Wc (a maximum of €11,000)
For reference, the average 100m² home would need between 3,000 and 6,000 Wc of energy to completely cover energy supplies.
This option will also naturally see the cost of bills go down, as you are producing your own electricity instead of using energy from the national grid.
This is perhaps the best option for those who live year-round in France, cutting the cost of bills and giving you a smaller, yet steady income stream from the pre-set bonus, for the first three years.
Selling your energy
Alternatively, the Tarif d’Achat allows you to sell all or part of the electricity produced from your panels, whilst continuing to consume energy from the national grid for domestic use.
The same rules for setting up and connecting your installation to the grid apply, but you also have to sign an obligation d’achat (a purchase obligation or OA) with a supplier, where they promise to buy the energy from you.
You can sell your energy directly to EDF or to another supplier, but prices are standardised and set by the government.
You can set up invoicing options online through your supplier, either using your OA number or the contrat de raccordement d'accès et d'exploitation (CRAE), another document provided during the application process.
Depending on your contract, you can invoice the supplier once or twice a year.
Usually, it is your responsibility to read your Linky meter on a fixed day for the invoice. Linky meters let you know how much electricity you have put back to the grid in any one period.
An OA lasts for 20 years, meaning you are locked into the price of reselling your surplus energy when you sign the contract.
Unlike with the prime à l’autoconsommartion and its fixed price, total energy sales are calculated by how much energy is produced per hour (kWh) by the installation.
Just like for the prime à l’autoconsommation, however, prices are updated every three months, and rates for the first quarter of 2023 are:
€0.24 per kWh for an installation of up to 3,000Wc
€0.20 per kWh for an installation between 3,001 and 9,000Wc
€0.14 per kWh for an installation of 9,001 to 36,000Wc
€0.12 per kWh for an installation between 36,001 and 100,000Wc
The selling prices for the Tarif d’Achat are generally getting lower each quarter due to the increased production (and selling to the state) of domestic solar energy in France, alongside the general increase in electricity costs across the country. But they do reflect higher energy prices, before the war in Ukraine the base price for an installation of up to 3,000WC was only 0.17 per kWh.
This option may be most beneficial to second-home owners in France, particularly in the sunny south, who do not spend all year in the country (meaning naturally lower bills than full-time residents), providing a steady stream of income from the production of electricity even when you are not at home, and only seeing more expensive utility bills when you are in France.