France wants to replace gas, fuel heaters with heat pumps

(Reuters) - France wants to replace residential fuel and gas heaters with heat pumps and create an industry to make the device in a bid to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, French Environment Minister Christophe Bechu said on Tuesday.

As part of a multi-year environmental plan announced by President Emmanuel Macron on Monday, France plans to phase out its few remaining coal-fired power plants, encourage the French to ditch thermal engines for electric cars and promote heat pumps as a way to heat houses.

"Fighting climate change means first and foremost exiting from the use of fossil fuels, therefore we should have no more fuel heaters and much fewer gas heaters," Bechu said in an interview with franceinfo radio.

France targets a 55% reduction in net greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, compared with 1990.

Bechu said the government wants to help develop a national heat pump industry so that France has the capacity to manufacture up to 1 million units per year, rather than subsidize imported Polish or Chinese-made devices.

Asked how France could replace the estimated 30 million heating systems nationwide by 2030, Bechu said if the government could succeed in replacing close to all of the nearly 3 million fuel heaters and about half of the 11 million gas heaters in France by 2030, it would be on track for a 55% reduction of its emissions by then.

He ruled out a ban on fossil-fuel-fired heaters and said the government would use incentives rather than coercion to boost the switch.

Bechu said subsidies for heat pumps - which are more expensive than gas heaters - would be boosted so that for low-income families the net cost of buying a heat pump would be similar to a gas heater.

Heat pumps use electricity to draw heat from the environment, and as France relies mainly on nuclear energy to generate electricity, heat pumps would generate virtually no emissions during use.

Bechu said that France also wants to boost the use of geothermal energy for residential heating.

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