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The three use cases for hydrogen described earlier in this chapter (i.e. transportation, heat and industry) are already in the process of implementation in France. In addition, on 10 September 2020, the French Government unveiled a €7bn national strategy for carbon-free hydrogen, setting out three core objectives:
HysetCo manages a fleet of 600 hydrogen taxis in Paris and also provides hydrogen refuelling points. It is a joint-venture set up by taxi company STEP (Hype), Toyota France, hydrogen specialist Air Liquide and energy provider Idex. The goal is to triple the number of hydrogen refuelling points to a dozen by 2021, to "feed" the Hype fleet.
Two other French industrial giants, Engie and Air Liquide, announced a commercial-scale hydrogen project named “HyGreen Provence” in December 2019. This project will be co-developed in consortium with the urban community of Durance, Luberon and Verdon. The consortium’s intention is to develop and build greenfield solar farms big enough to power 450,000 homes in France’s Provence region, with enough electricity left over to produce hydrogen by electrolysing water and store it in salt-cavern storage sites. The hydrogen produced would be:
> sold to refineries and chemicals makers in the city of Fos-sur-Mer, curbing their emissions of carbon dioxide; and
> used to fuel local fleets of electric buses and trucks.
The project would be connected to the gas grid. The intention is to ramp up its electrolysis capacity to as much as 250 megawatts by 2026, and produce about 20,000 tons of clean hydrogen each year.
Hympulsion/Zero Emission Valley ("ZEM"): this public-private partnership, involving Engie, Michelin, Crédit Agricole and Banque des Territoires (51%) and the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes Regional council (49%), is France's first (and largest) renewable hydrogen-driven mobility project for professional captive fleets (1000 vehicles and 20 stations). Its stated objective is to provide renewable hydrogen for transportation at an overall cost that is on a par with diesel, and took a major step forward on 18 June 2020 with the award of equipment contracts. The public-private structure illustrates the role public support can play in enabling the roll-out of pilot projects involving green hydrogen, which is far more expensive than the grey hydrogen that accounts for almost all commercial use and emits CO2 in the methane-reforming process.
France, which is currently concentrating its climate change efforts on nuclear energy generation, does not seem to need hydrogen as much as the EU’s most supportive Member States (such as the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Italy, Spain and Portugal).
However, this is changing. The former Minister for Ecological and Solidarity Transition, Elisabeth Borne, explained during a hearing at the Senate in mid-February 2020 that “it is very important for France to position itself on this technology of the future. We have a very broad ambition on green hydrogen for industry, mobility, but also for storage”. She also mentioned, on several occasions, the possible use of hydrogen as a fuel in aviation.
In addition, in mid-June 2020, the energy ministers of France, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland urged the European Commission to set targets for renewable hydrogen until 2030 and to increase its financial support for this technology. The countries called on the EC to develop a roadmap with objectives for decarbonising the energy sector by focusing on so-called green hydrogen.
Furthermore, the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire recently announced, as a result of the Covid19 crisis that “in the stimulus package, we will massively invest in research and production of hydrogen in France”, adding that it “may be the new energy” that will power trucks and trains.
On 10 September 2020, the French Government unveiled a national strategy for carbon-free hydrogen, setting out three core objectives:
This strategy has been allocated €7.2bn for the period up to 2030, including €2bn up to 2020.
The French Government defined three priorities:
1st priority: to decarbonise the industry by creating a French electrolysis sector
The strategy considers electrolysis as the most promising among the various existing technical processes. France aims to install 6.5 GW of electrolysers by 2030. To achieve this, the strategy proposes ways to develop high-capacity projects thanks to visibility on demand and to move to industrial scale to achieve profitability.
To this end, a Major Project of Common European Interest (PIIEEC/IPCEI) on hydrogen, following the example of the European project on batteries, will be implemented as early as 2021. France will allocate €1.5bn to this action.
2nd priority: to develop heavy mobility using decarbonised hydrogen
According to the French Government, the hydrogen sector represents a major economic challenge with a turnover of more than €100bn and 225,000 jobs. It is a dynamic market calling for technological solutions superior to those of batteries. The strategy thus offers tools to produce reliable vehicles for companies, to have high-performance and upgradeable equipment, and to have the skills to produce and maintain the vehicles.
In this respect, two calls for projects will be launched by the end of 2020:
3rd priority: to support research, innovation and skills development in order to promote the use of tomorrow's technologies
The strategy proposes a set of tools to support hydrogen research and innovation. To this end, a priority research programme "Hydrogen Applications" operated by the French National Research Agency will be put in place by the end of the year. This €65m programme aims to support research and the preparation of the future generation of hydrogen technologies (batteries, tanks, materials, electrolysers). The strategy also aims to develop skills by supporting the campus development of trades and professional qualifications. A budget of €30m will be allocated to this action.
Hydrogen was presented as an R&D priority in France’s 2018 multiannual energy programme (programmation pluriannuelle de l’énergie or “PPE”), the country's energy roadmap for the coming decade.
Measures for promoting hydrogen mentioned in the PPE are as follows:
On 8 November 2019, France adopted a law on energy and climate which contains several provisions relating to hydrogen.73 This law gives hydrogen legal status for the first time in France, as until then hydrogen was mostly considered as a chemical product, and provides that the French Government is empowered to take by ordinance, until 9 November 2020, any measure falling within the scope of this new law in order:
The ordinances to be adopted for the implementation of this law are currently in discussion and are expected to be enacted shortly. Drafts seen by industry professionals show that the new legislation should inter alia (a) define hydrogen types according to their mode of production, (b) organise a mechanism of guarantees of traceability or origin to attest to the type of hydrogen produced (similar to the guarantees of origin mechanism for renewable energy) and (c) provide for a State support mechanism, similar to feed-in tariff schemes for some renewable energy projects, for the production of green hydrogen.
In addition, this new law provides for a system of guarantees of origin for hydrogen produced from renewable sources.
Hydrogen refuelling points qualify as classified facilities for the protection of the environment (installation classée pour la protection de l'environnement or “ICPE”), which results in a specific regulatory treatment for these facilities. The draft ordinance extends the scope of natural gas network operators, regulating the injection of hydrogen in the gas network.
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