Decarbonising heat: is electricity the answer?

Michel Colombier, IDDRI

An overview of the role of electricity in providing heat within the domestic sector in France, suggests that it has had a growing role in meeting demand. This in part reflects a drive to increase the share of electricity within heating in the domestic sector, on the back of a policy decision (in respond to oil shocks) that saw the introduction of an integrated electricity package that combined action on energy, technical options and tariff support. The result was a considerable growth in electric heat in new build, where investment costs were low and installation was easy. However, the late 1980s also saw a large scale uptake of electric heat in existing buildings due to the favourable tariff structure, but many of these buildings had poor levels of insulation, resulting in growing energy poverty. Looking forward, low energy building is becoming the standard for new build making electricity a good choice, but its use within existing stock will require a systematic thermal renovation programme.  It is apparent that the choice of fuel for heat depends on both location and the energy performance of buildings.

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