Paris is to see the opening of its brand new $84m biomass plant in a few weeks as the French capital city targets district heating as a means of meeting its energy efficiency and decarbonisation targets.
Paris urban heating company CPCU – which provides heat and hot water for more than a quarter of Parisians – plans to burn 140,000 tonnes of wood pellets per year in the plant in Saint-Ouen, north of the city.
A five year contract has been awarded to US wood biomass suppliers and although that move has been questioned by environmentalists the governors of the scheme say that arrangement is temporary and fuel will be sourced more locally after the contract expires.
CPCU said the use of wood – as well as a switch from fuel oil to gas – will avoid 300,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.
“This is a good example of how the energy transition is put in place following the United Nations climate conference,” said Celia Blauel, Paris deputy mayor for the environment.
Compagnie Parisienne de Chauffage Urbain President Frederic Martin said it was cheaper to buy the pellets from the United States than in France, where the timber industry also produces pellets but mainly in small volumes for individual customers.
CPCU runs a 480 km (300 miles) steam heat network that supplies many of Paris’ traditional Haussmann-style apartment buildings and institutions like schools and hospitals.
Forty percent of the steam distributed by CPCU, 64.5 percent owned by gas group Engie and 33.5 percent by the city, is generated in energy-from-waste plants. The rest comes from wood, gas and coal-fired plants, including Saint-Ouen.
Engie director Henri Balzan said investment in urban heating networks in France, which is heavily dependent on electric heating from its nuclear plants, was way behind countries in northern and eastern Europe.
“We expect district heating networks in France will grow five-fold by 2030,” he said.