What has led to France’s u-turn over gas boiler ban?

Gas boilers are already banned in new homes but the government said it planned to ban them altogether

New gas boilers can still be fitted in older homes after a change of policy
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A blanket ban on gas boilers under consideration in May 2023 has now been officially scrapped.

It comes after the Elysée palace, the president’s residence, had had such a boiler fitted itself earlier this year.

What has led to the government’s backpedalling?

Gas boilers were banned for new build homes from January 1, 2022, in a drive to reduce carbon emissions, with heat pumps cited as the recommended replacement.

In May, Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that the government wanted to extend the ban to existing homes by 2026, forcing owners to gradually replace gas boilers with greener heat pumps.

However, with 11 million homes currently using gas boilers - which represents 40% of the population - a ban would have had massive implications for people’s finances and the French economy.

‘An impossible task’

Opponents spoke out immediately against the mooted ban.

“They can’t just say that in 2026 there will be no more gas boilers and they'll train 200,000 engineers to fit heat pumps. That’s an impossible timetable,” said Jean-Christophe Repon, president of the independent builders’ confederation Capeb.

“I told Elisabeth Borne and I’ll say the same thing to Olivier Klein [the then-Minister of Housing], that it would be just unworkable until the new EPR [nuclear reactors] have been built.”

Coénove, an association of energy professionals, was concerned by the repercussions of the ban during the current cost of living crisis.

“Heat pumps cost €10,000 more than a good gas boiler and have a shorter lifetime and higher maintenance costs,” it said in a press release.

“Households with modest incomes, who often live in isolated areas, will be completely unable to afford heat pumps.”

‘Gas was the only option for the Elysée’

Apparently concerns over cost were not only for households with modest incomes in isolated areas.

In July, it emerged that the Elysée palace itself recently had a gas boiler installed at a cost of €100,000.

The president scrambled to defend the decision, which went against the ecological directions announced by his prime minister two months earlier.

“The gas boiler was our only option,” he said at the time, adding that not only will it save money for taxpayers but any other system would have detracted from the beauty of the historic building.

This controversy, along with the impracticality of the initial plan to ban gas boilers by 2026 has led the government to put the project on the backburner.

In an interview with HugoDécrypte in August, Mr Macron acknowledged that the cost of heat pumps was too high and suggested that France needed to “create its own heat pump industry” without more precision.

Finally, he relented.

“We will not ban gas boilers because we cannot leave our compatriots, in particular those in rural areas, without a heating solution,” he said in his interview on TF1 on Sunday (September 24).

“[But] we need to help households equip themselves with heat pumps, which are more intelligent, help save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly.

“We have to triple heat pump production in France”.

Since March, the government has offered €5,000 to all homes, irrespective of revenue, to replace their gas, coal or fuel oil boiler with a heat pump.

However, at least for now, households are still permitted to replace their old gas boiler with a new one.

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