New French buildings must have solar panels or green roofs

France has introduced a law that requires the roofs of buildings constructed in commercial zones to be at least partially covered by solar panels or plants.  

The law, which was passed on the 19 March, is a weaker version of what environmental activists were lobbying for. The initial call was for all new buildings to have "living roofs". Businesses will now be able to cover only part of their roof in plants and can if they wish substitute photovoltaic panels.  

France is behind other western European countries in terms of its solar power effort. Whereas Germany has a peak capacity of about 40GW and Italy has 17GW, France has only 5GW, about the same as the UK – which is more reliant on wind power. Its solar capacity actually dropped in 2013, and now accounts for only 6% of total European capacity. 

Nuclear power generated 83% of France’s electricity in 2012, however the country’s Socialist government wants to add more renewable energy in the national mix. 

Green roofs are promoted by environmentalists because, among other advantages, they reduce the energy needed for cooling and heating buildings. They can also create habitats for wildlife.  

Image: Solar panels (Wikimedia Commons)

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