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LIVING IN FRANCE

How France’s new green laws could affect your energy bills

France is set to introduce a new energy law, which includes changes to the way your gas and electricity bills will be calculated. Here's a look at what it means for your pockets.

How France's new green laws could affect your energy bills
File photo: AFP
The new energy bill which is being discussed by French MPs in parliament on Tuesday, aims to set the country's course in terms of its transition to more sustainable energy practices. 
 
Included in the plan is a change in the way electricity and gas tariffs are calculated in an attempt to stabilise bills for consumers. 
 
Here's a look at what it means for you. 
 
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EDF's coal-fired powerplant in Cordemais, western France. Photo: AFP

Electricity 

The French government wants to stabilise the cost of electricity and as part of the new bill, there would be a “change to the method used to calculate electricity tariffs”, the French Minister for the Environment told the French press. 
 
“I want to give the French a form of price stability related to the stability of the cost of electricity production by nuclear power plants,” he said, adding that 70 percent of France's electricity is produced by nuclear power stations. 
 
This means that the cost of electricity should be “fairly stable” and “fixed by law”, said the minister, explaining that if French power giant EDF and its competitors have access to fixed-cost nuclear electricity the number of price hikes should be limited. 
 
No doubt the changes will be met enthusiastically by the general public, with the cost of electricity recently increasing in France, with a price hike of 5.9 percent in June and further hike expected in August.
 
Today, the regulated electricity tariffs, applied by EDF to around 25 million households, are set by the French Energy Regulatory Commission, according to a complex calculations, which take into account the evolution of the wholesale market price. 
 
The aim is to stabilise prices by 2020. 
 
France to close 14 nuclear reactors by 2035 an all coal-fired power plants by 2022Photo: AFP
 
Gas 
 
The bill states that regulation of gas tariffs will be gradually phased out over the next few years up to 2023 in a bid to “protect consumers”. 
 
Currently the tariffs are applied to 4.3 million households in France (40 percent) by French energy company Engie however in 2017 France's Administrative Supreme Court (Conseil d'État) judged this system was judged to be contrary to EU law. 
 
The idea is that scrapping the tariffs lays the foundations for a fully competitive retail market for the supply of natural gas in France.
 
It is uncertain whether the end of regulated tariffs will lead to an increase or decrease in the cost of gas for the French consumer although it is feared by some consumer groups that the price will go up. 
 
On a positive note for consumers, natural gas prices are presently lower in countries without regulated tariffs, including Germany, the United Kingdom, and Italy.
 
Other reforms 
 
Stabilising the price of electricity and gas for consumers are just two of the goals of the new energy bill.
 
Another is achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, with the government aiming to reduce France's consumption of fossil fuels by 40 percent as soon as 2030. 
 
On top of that the government aims to close 14 nuclear out of the country's 58 power plants by 2035, as well as close the last coal plants by 2022. 
 
France relies on nuclear power for nearly 72 percent of its electricity needs, though the government wants to reduce this to 50 percent by 2030 or 2035 by developing more renewable energy sources.
 
French President Emmanuel Macron has said France would aim to triple its wind power electricity output by 2030, and increase solar energy output fivefold in that period.
 
He also said that he would ask French electricity giant EDF to study the feasibility of more next-generation EPR nuclear reactors, but will wait until 2021 before deciding whether to proceed with construction.
 
In November Macron established a High Council for Climate, composed of 13 scientists, economists and other experts, the council is responsible for evaluating the energy policies and measures implemented in France and issuing recommendations.
 
The council's first report on French climate action is set to be released on June 25th and the government will have six months to respond.

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LIVING IN FRANCE

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer's here and the time is right for national celebrations, traffic jams, strikes, Paris beaches, and ... changing the rules for new boilers.

What changes in France in July 2022

Summer holidays

The holiday season in France officially begins on Thursday, July 7th, as this is the date when school’s out for the summer. The weekend immediately after the end of the school year is expected to be a busy one on the roads and the railways as families start heading off on vacation.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

Strikes

But it wouldn’t really be summer in France without a few strikes – airport employees at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports will walk out on July 1st, while SNCF rail staff will strike on July 6th. Meanwhile Ryanair employees at Paris, Marseille and Toulouse airports will strike on yet-to-be-confirmed dates in July.

READ ALSO How strikes and staff shortages will affect summer in France

Parliamentary fireworks?

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will present the government’s new programme in parliament on July 5th – this is expected to be a tricky day for the Macron government, not only does it not have the parliamentary majority that it needs to pass legislation like the new package of financial aid to help householders deal with the cost-of-living crisis, but opposition parties have indicated that they will table a motion of no confidence against Borne.

Parliament usually breaks for the summer at the end of July, but a special extended session to allow legislation to be passed means that MPs won’t get to go on holiday until at least August 9th. 

Fête nationale

July 14th is a public holiday in France, commemorating the storming of the Bastille which was the symbolic start of the French Revolution. As usual, towns and cities will host parades and fireworks – with the biggest military parade taking place on the Champs-Elysées in Paris – and many stores will remain closed.

As the national holiday falls on a Thursday this year, many French workers will take the opportunity to faire le pont.

Festival season really kicks in

You know summer’s here when France gets festival fever, with events in towns and cities across the country. You can find our pick of the summer celebrations here.

Paris Plages

The capital’s popular urban beaches return on July 9th on the banks of the Seine and beside the Bassin de la Villette in northern Paris, bringing taste of the seaside to the capital with swimming spots, desk chairs, beach games and entertainment.  

Summer sales end 

Summer sales across most of the country end on July 19th – unless you live in Alpes-Maritimes, when they run from July 6th to August 2nd, or the island of Corsica (July 13th to August 9th).

Tour de France

The Tour de France cycle race sets off on July 1st from Copenhagen and finishes up on the Champs-Elysée in Paris on July 24th.

New boilers

From July 1st, 2022, new equipment installed for heating or hot water in residential or professional buildings, must comply with a greenhouse gas emissions ceiling of 300 gCO2eq/KWh PCI. 

That’s a technical way of saying oil or coal-fired boilers can no longer be installed. Nor can any other type of boiler that exceeds the ceiling.

As per a decree published in the Journal Officiel in January, existing appliances can continue to be used, maintained and repaired, but financial aid of up to €11,000 is planned to encourage their replacement. 

Bike helmets

New standards for motorbike helmets come into effect from July 1st. Riders do not need to change their current helmets, but the “ECE 22.05” standard can no longer be issued – and all helmets sold must adhere to a new, more stringent “ECE 22.06” standards from July 2024

New cars

From July 6th new car models must be equipped with a black box that record driving parameters such as speed, acceleration or braking phases, wearing (or not) of a seat belt, indicator use, the force of the collision or engine speed, in case of accidents.

New cars II

From July 1st, the ecological bonus for anyone who buys an electric vehicle drops by €1,000, while rechargeable hybrids will be excluded from the aid system, “which will be reserved for electric vehicles whose CO2 emission rate is less than or equal to 20g/km”.

What’s in a name?

Historically, the French have been quite restrictive on the use of family names – remember the concern over the use of birth names on Covid vaccine documents? – but it becomes easier for an adult to choose to bear the name of his mother, his father, or both by a simple declaration to the civil status. All you have to do is declare your choice by form at the town hall of your home or place of birth.

Eco loans

In concert with the new boiler rules, a zero-interest loan of up to €30,000 to finance energy-saving renovations can be combined with MaPrimeRénov’, a subsidy for financing the same work, under certain conditions, from July 1st.

Rent rules

Non-professional private landlords advertising properties for rent must, from July 1st, include specific information about the property on the ad, including the size of the property in square metres, the area of town in which the property is in, the monthly rent and any supplements, whether the property is in a rent-control area, and the security deposit required. Further information, including the full list of requirements for any ad, is available here.

Perfume ban

More perfumes are to be added to a banned list for products used by children, such as soap-making kits, cosmetic sets, shampoos, or sweet-making games, or toys that have an aroma.

Atranol, chloroatranol (extracts of oak moss containing tannins), and methyl carbonate heptin, which smells like violets, will be banned from July 5th, because of their possible allergenic effects.

Furthermore, 71 new allergenic fragrances – including camphor, menthol, vanilin, eucalyptus spp. leaf oil, rose flower oil, lavendula officinalis, turpentine – will be added to the list of ingredients that must be clearly indicated on a toy or on an attached label.

Ticket resto limits

The increased ticket resto limit ended on June 30th, so from July 1st employees who receive the restaurant vouchers will once again be limited to spending €19 per day in restaurants, cafés and bars. The limit was increased to €38 during the pandemic, when workers were working from home.

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