Gas in your French Property: Mains Gas, Gas Tanks and Bottled Gas

 

Essential Reading

Gas in your French Property: Mains Gas, Gas Tanks and Bottled Gas

Many homes around France use gas as their primary or secondary energy source, either connecting to the mains natural gas network (gaz de ville) or using bottled gas. From choosing a gas provider to paying your gas bills—here’s everythingyou need to know about gas in your French property.

France’s Natural Gas Network

Some 11 million properties around France are connected to the natural gas distribution networks and many more use bottled gas for cooking or other needs. The state-owned Engie network is responsible for Europe’s largest natural gas distribution, with a 194,600 km network serving 9,495 French districts. Engie’s subsidiary GRDF (Gaz Réseau Distribution France) distributes 96% of France’s natural gas, with 25 regional DSOs (distribution system operators) making up the balance.

The majority of natural gas in France is supplied by Engie, who have some 7 million domestic and small business clients. However, there are also several other gas suppliers, many of which offer more competitive rates.

Gas Providers in France: Regulated and Market-Based Tariffs

As with electricity providers in France, there are two main options when it comes to choosing a gas supplier. The state-owned Engie is the only provider that can offer regulated tariffs (tariffs réglementés), while other providers offer market-based prices (tariffs de marché). However, this is all changing, so it’s important to be aware of your options.

Regulated Gas Tariffs: Engie

Historically, Engie (formerly known as GDF Suez) has been responsible for supplying all of France’s gas needs, and it’s so synonymous with gas supply that you may even hear landlords or notaires tell you to “appelez GDF” (call EDF/Engie) in order to connect your property’s gas or report a gas issue.

Engie is the only company able to offer regulated tariffs (tariff bleu) on natural gas, which are fixed rates set by the French government. The benefit of these is that the rates are regulated, although there are typically monthly changes and sometimes additional tax increases to account for, and they are not necessarily the cheapest. Nonetheless, more than 4 million households remain on these regulated tariffs.

Since 2014, these regulated tariffs are slowly being phased out to bring an end to regulated gas prices in France and bring them in line with European laws. From 2020, these regulated tariffs are no longer available for professional (business) clients, and from  1st July 2023, they will no longer be available to domestic clients either, meaning that all natural gas tariffs will follow the market rate. If you currently have a gas contract with regulated tariffs, you will be contacted by Engie in advance of this date and will be automatically moved onto a market-rate tariff. Better yet, take the time to research the market and find the best deal for you.

You can sign up to Engie online here, and they also have an English-language FAQ.

Market-Based Gas Tariffs

All of the other gas providers in France provide market-based tariffs, which means the prices are subject to fluctuations in the energy market. In practice, these are often lower than the regulated tariffs, and many suppliers guarantee savings of -5% or -10% on regulated tariffs.

Along with competitive prices, alternative gas providers may be a good choice for those concerned about using green energy options, with some providing biogaz (gaz vert). Many (including Engie) also use ‘smart thermostats’ (thermostat intelligent), which allow customers to monitor their heating consumption in real-time via a mobile app.

Comparing Energy Providers

As with all French utilities, it’s a good idea to compare multiple providers before making your choice. Price comparison sites such as Le Lynx or Les Furets will give you an overview of the market, along with the government’s official comparison site. Be prepared to enter personal information, including your postcode, telephone number and email, and annual consumption (if you know it).

Changing Gas Providers: Can I Switch at Any Time?

Unlike many other contracts where there is often a minimum engagement period, French law prohibits gas providers from imposing a mandatory commitment. This means that your gas contract cannot impose a minimum 12- or 24-month engagement, and you are free to switch gas providers at any time without incurring any fees or needing to give a reason.

If you want to switch providers, the proper procedure is to take out the contract with your new supplier and allow them to terminate the old contract on your behalf. This avoids your gas being cut off during the transfer process and means your new provider will take care of all the formalities and paperwork.

Which Gas Supplier in France?

Along with Engie, there are many gas providers, and you may also find small, local companies offering competitive rates. Here are some of the most notable:

  • EDF: The state-owned electricity provider also supplies natural gas, with contracts including fixed-rate tariffs for up to 4 years and the option to install a smart thermostat.
  • Total Direct Energie: One of France’s largest alternative energy suppliers, Total Direct Energie provides electricity and gas. Gas is offered as a fixed-rate contract, tariffs -5% or -10% of the market rate, or a green energy option using 10% biogaz.
  • Eni: One of Europe’s largest alternative natural gas suppliers, Eni offers savings of up to 15% against the regulated tariffs for their online-only option.
  • Alterna: Alterna provides electricity and gas with rates based on consumption rather than the regulated tariffs.
  • Proxelia: This one is for those based in the North of France only. Proxelia provides domestic and business contracts for combined electricity and gas, but there are no standalone gas contracts.
  • ekWateur: Specialises in green energy – 100% biogas contracts are available.
  • Antargaz: Supplies propane and natural gas for both businesses and domestic clients.
  • Gaz de Bordeaux: This local company is an obvious choice for Bordeaux residents, but it also supplies nationally. Fixed-rate contracts are available for up to four years.

How Much Does Natural Gas Cost in France: Rates and Tariffs

The costs of natural gas in France are generally slightly lower than in the rest of Europe, and the market is quite competitive, so it’s highly recommended to compare prices before choosing a deal.

Gas is charged per kWh, so how much you pay will depend on your consumption, and gas prices do vary between different regions. A French property that uses gas for heating, hot water, and cooking will have a higher consumption (probably more than 14,000 kWh per year for the average household) than a property with gas heating only. If you only use gas for cooking, you might only use 600-700 kWh per year, or you might opt to use bottled gas (see the section on bottled gas below).

Gas heating tends to be one of the cheapest options for heating your French property. However, this will, of course, depend on the size of your home, the insulation, and your heating habits. New build properties, however, are unlikely to use gas central heating from 2021 – due to new environmental regulations, planning permission now favours more ecological heating methods such as biomass, heat pumps, and solar heating. Read more about this in our article on heating options for your French property.

Setting up Gas in Your French Home

When moving into a new house, you should contact Engie or your chosen gas supplier as soon as possible. You can open a new contract or transfer your existing contract from an old property over the phone or via the internet, and it can take up to five days to connect. Expect to be asked for your ID, full address, details of the property, proof of ownership or residence (such as your rental contract or Compromis de Vente), and your bank account RIB.

To set up a new account for an existing gas supply, there is an ‘access’ fee (frais d’accès), currently set at €18.06,including tax (paid to GRDF).

If you are connecting a gas supply for a new property for the first time, you will need to contact GRDF directly to apply for a new connection (raccordement). Use this link to find out if you will be able to connect to the mains gas and an estimate of the costs.

Paying Your Gas Bills

Depending on your supplier, you can typically choose to pay your gas bills (factures) monthly or quarterly. Some suppliers offer fixed monthly rates, which will then be adjusted each quarter according in accordance with your actual consumption; others bill for your actual consumption.

 There are three elements to your French gas bill. Firstly, the standing charge (abonnement), determined by your energy supplier. Secondly, the consumption of gas units, which will be calculated based on how many kWh you use and your supplier’s rate in € per kWh. TVA (Value Added Tax) is then applied at 5.5% on the standing charge and 20% on the consumption.

Your bill will also include local taxes (contributions et taxes liées à l’énergie), including CTA and TICGN, which are added at a standard rate for all customers regardless of your supplier.

You can pay your bills by credit card online or by phone, or by cheque, but the most common way to pay is via direct debit (prélèvement).

Botted Gas and Gas Tanks

While most French towns are connected to mains gas, if you live in a rural area without mains gas, you have two options available to you. You can have a gas tank fitted and arrange for propane gas suppliers to deliver gas to your home periodically, or you can purchase bottled gas as and when you need it.

Installing a Gas Tank at your French Property

For rural properties without access to the gas network, installing a gas tank (citerne de gaz) at your property may be a convenient option, especially if your gas consumption is high.

Installing a propane tank at home must be done by a registered professional and will need to meet certain legal requirements to ensure its safety. The gas tank must be installed in a separate structure outside your home or may be buried underground, depending on your property and available space.

You have two choices available to you when installing a gas tank at your French property. If you have the funds, you can purchase the tank yourself (however, expect prices to start from a minimum of €1000, not including the costs of installation), which means you can then shop around to find the cheapest supplier. However, by far the most common way is to ‘rent’ a tank from a supplier, who will also install the gas tank and take care of the safety and maintenance. This option will typically be much cheaper; however, you will be tied into a contract with that supplier for a fixed period, possibly for several years.

You can find a registered professional gas installer via the Professionnels du Gaz website. It’s worth getting a quote from two or more installers before making your decision.

Propane Gas Suppliers in France

There are four principal propane suppliers in France, all of which will deliver gas to properties all around the country.

When choosing a contract with a supplier, you should look at the price of the propane gas delivered ( €/tonne), as well as any additional fees for delivery, tank maintenance, and services or repairs. Unlike choosing a mains gas supplier, these contracts often do have a minimum engagement period and may have associated cancellation fees if you choose to end your contract or move to a different supplier. Be sure to read your contract carefully and understand the terms before you sign.

Bottled Gas

The final option for gas consumption is to purchase bottled gas as and when you need it. Both propane and butane gas cylinder bottles are available to purchase, and if your gas consumption is low (for example, for cooking only), this might be the cheapest and most practical option.

Types of bottled gas: Propane and Butane

Propane or Butane are both available; however, there are strict rules on their usage. It is illegal in France to store Propane indoors, so you must have a suitable garage or outbuilding in which to stock your Propane bottles. You may stock extra bottles of propane, but you must not stack more than three bottles together (a height of more than 2.2 metres)

Butane, on the other hand, must be stored indoors and therefore is only sold in bottles (you cannot have a butane tank). You must not stock more than one spare bottle (10 litres) of Butane at your property.

Which you choose to use, therefore, will likely be dictated by your property – Propane gas is the most popular choice for houses, while Butane might be the only option for a fifth-floor apartment. Many homes that are not connected to mains gas have a gas fitting running from the kitchen to the garage or another outbuilding to allow the connection of bottled propane gas.

For both options, your gas fittings must be installed by a registered professional, and you must have a certificate of conformity (certificat de conformité) to ensure legal and safety measures are met.

Buying bottled gas in France
Bottled gas is produced by the aforementioned gas suppliers (Antargaz, Butagaz, Primagaz, and Vitogaz), and can be purchased from local supermarkets, petrol stations, or other outlets. Antargaz also sells bottled gaz online via their subsidiary Gazissimo.

The first time you purchase a gas bottle, you will need to put down a deposit to cover the cost of the bottle itself (anything from €18 to €50, depending on the supplier and the size of the bottle). You may wish to purchase two bottles, ensuring you always have a spare at home for when one runs out (which it will inevitably do in the middle of cooking dinner).

You will need to present your ID and proof of address, and sign a contract. From this point on, you can return your empty bottle to any gas bottle outlet (it doesn’t have to be the sales point where you took out the contract) and exchange it for a new one of the same type. You will then pay only for the refill.

If at any point you decide to no longer use gas bottles or you move house and require bottles from a different supplier,  you can return the bottles and reclaim your deposit, but you must have saved the original contract in order to do this.

Note that you will only be able to exchange your bottles for refills of the same supplier and bottle size, so it is worth considering this before you buy your initial bottle. Some suppliers have different connections (so you may not be able to interchange bottles from all suppliers), and not all sales outlets stock all types (so it’s worth checking that your local outlets stock the type you want).

Propane bottles come in 6kg, 13kg, and 35kg sizes, and Butane bottles in 6kg, 10kg, and 13kg. Note that the weight refers to the gas refill – the actual weight of a full bottle is 13kg (for a 6kg refill), 24-27kg (for a 13kg refill), and 70kg (for a 35kg refill).

Which you choose will depend on your needs, but 13kg bottles tend to be the most popular for general use and are just about luggable for the average person. If you are worried about carrying heavy bottles or having a portable gas source, a 6kg refill might be preferable. The largest size is generally reserved for businesses and professional use.

Prices vary between suppliers but expect to pay around €30-35 for a 13kg refill.

Own a Property or Second Home in France?

Our Essential Reading articles cover everything you need to know as a French homeowner from property taxes and home insurance to paying your bills. Perhaps you also need recommendations on removals to France, advice on building and renovations, or tips for managing a second home? FrenchEntrée is here to help! We can even advise on selling your French property.

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