Friday, August 14, 2020

End of oil-fired boilers: “town gas and field fuel”, a fractured France

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On July 27, 2020, at the end of the Ecological Defense Council, Emmanuelle Wargon, Minister Delegate to the Minister of Ecological Transition, in charge of housing, announced the gradual replacement of oil-fired boilers as of January 1, 2022. While several measures d Financial support already exists, supplemented by a new conversion bonus of “up to 80%”, the specter of incomplete financial compensation and an administrative gas plant persists.

Especially since many of the homes heated with fuel oil are located in “economically and socially vulnerable areas”, as Jérôme Fourquet, director of the Opinion and business strategies department at Ifop, explains, by consulting the maps that we presented to him. . The author of the “French Archipelago” (Ed. Seuil), a remarkable essay on the France of yellow vests, brings us a geographical, historical and political look at a measure that risks touching corners of France that are struggling. to taste the fruits of globalization.

City gas and field fuel

“Historically, French metropolises have been heated with town gas and, at the same time, from the post-war boom, with electricity,” recalls the political scientist, a geographer by training.

“The France of oil heating is rural. Part of it is poor, even very poor: along the diagonal of the void stretching from the Ardennes to the Cévennes, ”remarks Jérôme Fourquet. “Most of these municipalities have had a glorious industrial history, which is now over, as in Lorraine and Moselle, other regions have not seen the shadow of a factory chimney. This is the case of the Cévennes, the Ardèche or even the Norman bocage … Many of the households living in these regions already devote a large part of their budget to energy, ”he underlines.

Another part of this fuel oil France is rich, even very rich, as in Alsace or around Lake Geneva, which borders Switzerland. There too, heating with fuel oil remained a solution adapted to intense cold often, to isolation sometimes.

There remains a whole part of the country which has never smelled of fuel oil. Alternative solutions arose throughout the twentieth century: “Coal, which still supplies a lot of the former mining basin in the North, wood in the Landes, electricity throughout the Mediterranean arc”, lists Jérôme. Fourquet by pointing at the lightest keys on the map.

The coastline prefers electric

This is also the case around nuclear power plants. “The proximity of the latter often brings financial facilities to residents”, logically converted to electric heating. It is particularly striking in the tip of the Ardennes, around the Chooz power plant, north of the Loire, in the English Channel. In Gravelines, in the North, only 2% of homes are heated with fuel …

Recent history has shown that part of this fuel oil France is used to protest movements. Brittany of the red caps, scalded by the Ecomouv ‘porticoes, is not far in memory. The yellow vests, opposed to the rise in diesel prices, even less.

“The other aspect to watch concerns the age of these populations,” he continues. Many of these rural communities are populated by retirees, potentially fragile economically and not very sensitive to administrative maze, however advantageous they may be.

Avoid a new crisis of yellow vests

This fuel map also outlines another challenge: to be able to offer “technically viable alternatives to households furthest from urban centers”. Some possible solutions, such as heat pumps, require high electrical power, “an inadequate system at the end of the network”.

France for fuel oil weighs less than France for diesel, which still concerns nearly 20 million registered vehicles. Or 60% of the vehicle fleet. As for fuel oil heating, INSEE listed 3.2 million main residences concerned in 2015, or 11.5% of French households.

Jérôme Fourquet also notes that the government seems to have learned lessons from previous crises: “First of all, the system put in place by the government is progressive, insofar as the boilers will have to be replaced after a breakdown, which can years. “On the other hand, the support measures put forward, although to be specified, promise to be proportionately more generous than the premiums for car conversion”, tempers the specialist.

A calculation that can pay off in the long term, despite the recent collapse in fuel prices, linked to the coronavirus crisis, where many have benefited from the windfall to fill their tanks. The ability of these millions of households to combine a climate emergency with an end-of-month emergency will be crucial in pushing through the post-fuel oil pill.

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