It is a great paradox. The energy renovation of buildings was the subject of a rare consensus during the presidential campaign, with all the candidates agreeing that more and more needed to be done. Government communication was not to be outdone either, highlighting the undeniable success of the MaPrimeRénov’ system, with 644,073 files retained last year.
But on the ground, the tone is different. In an open letter sent on March 31 to the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, nine professional associations and federations warn of the “strong decline” observed ” since a few months “ in the energy renovation market. They are worried about the decline in aid, in particular for those who risk finding themselves in a precarious situation.
The numbers speak for themselves. In the first half of 2021, around 60,000 attics were insulated each month in France, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. But since last June, the monthly rate has fallen to less than 5,000 sites. “More than 13,000 jobs have been destroyed in six months in the young insulation sector, and companies that had invested in equipping themselves with high-performance machines are on the verge of bankruptcy”explains Édouard Barthès, the president of Symbiote (Multi-branch union of industries and operators of the energy transition).
Two factors are responsible for this situation. First of all, last year, there was the early cessation of the famous “helping hands” allowing work to be carried out from just €1. The government justified its decision by the proliferation of scams and poor workmanship on the part of “eco-delinquent” companies often created for the sole purpose of pocketing bonuses.
Added to this is a second factor. Much of the renovation work is financed by energy saving certificates (CEE), which have become a little less attractive. This complex mechanism consists of making electricity, gas and fuel suppliers (EDF, Engie, but also Leclerc and Carrefour, etc.) pay for part of the equipment and work that makes it possible to consume less energy, such as the buying a new boiler or installing insulation panels.
Over the years, EWCs have grown to become the mainstay of housing renovation. For individuals alone, they represent an envelope of 3.1 billion euros in 2022, compared to the 2 billion included in the budget for MaPrimeRénov ‘. But today, the energy suppliers, called “obligated” in the administrative jargon, put the foot on the brake, after having accelerated. “They have bought many more certificates than expected in recent years and can therefore afford to slow down the pace a little, while remaining within the objectives set by the government”underlines Bastien Resse, director of strategy and external relations of Enalia, a consulting firm.
During the period from 2022 to 2025, the volume of ESCs intended for households is nevertheless expected to increase by 17%. “But the government gave in to pressure from energy suppliers who threatened to raise prices if they did not obtain the transfer of their obligations from one period to another. As a result, half of the target set by 2025 has already been achieved, i.e. as many projects that will not be done”believes Danyel Dubreuil, spokesperson for the Rénovons! initiative, which brings together several associations, including Secours Catholique.
Individuals now have to deal with a higher out-of-pocket charge, which is pushing many of them to postpone their projects. “For a €20,000 insulation project, a very modest household must take out more than €9,500 on average, compared to €1,750 in the spring of 2021”, assures the president of Symbiote. And the bill should still increase to 1er May, with the discontinuation of the “boost” intended for the insulation of walls and floors. Aid is thus reduced by a third on average.
“The government has chosen to concentrate aid for heating changes, mainly for the benefit of heat pumps. But there is no point in having a more efficient system if the accommodation has not been insulated beforehand”underlines Audrey Zermati, director of strategy for the Effy group.
Professionals are now calling for the establishment of an additional volume of bonds, which would be concentrated on the most modest.