Franco-German hydrogen cooperation

Philippe Boucly, © France Hydrogène
Philippe Boucly, © France Hydrogène

By the time of the next presidential election in 2022, France hopes to have regained the economic growth it last experienced in 2019. In order to stimulate the economy following the COVID-19 lockdown, the French government is rolling out a EUR 100 billion recovery program named France Relance. EUR 2 billion of the funds will be released over the next couple of years to support hydrogen projects. In total, the French government plans to channel EUR 7 billion of investment into this energy carrier in the runup to 2030. Meanwhile over the border, Germany has earmarked funds of EUR 9 billion to bolster its hydrogen sector. These financial stimulus packages and, moreover, the ambitions of these two countries to adopt a leadership stance in the future hydrogen economy, are also resulting in increasing efforts of French and German companies to work together.

In 2018, then French environment minister Nicolas Hulot pledged EUR 100 million in finance for the hydrogen industry to be released over three years. In September 2020, current environment minister Barbara Pompili, along with the French economy minister Bruno Le Maire and Philippe Boucly, president of French hydrogen association France Hydrogène, presented the National Strategy for the Development of Zero-carbon Hydrogen (Stratégie nationale pour le développement de l’hydrogène décarboné).

The starting sum of EUR 2 billion reserved for the next two years is drawn from the France Relance economic recovery program and is designed to drive forward industrial decarbonization. A further EUR 5 billion is then due to be invested in the French hydrogen economy by 2030 with the aim of developing 6.5 gigawatts of electrolyzer capacity over the coming decade which will allow the production of 600,000 metric tons of green hydrogen.

Three priority areas are outlined in the French hydrogen strategy, the first of these being the decarbonization of industry through the construction of electrolyzers which can be then run on renewables at a later date. According to the environment ministry, 20,000 of the 145,000 metric tons of hydrogen currently used by industry is due to be produced by means of electrolysis by 2023.

The second priority is the development of clean mobility using zero-carbon hydrogen. Here, the emphasis is on the development of hydrogen-fueled commercial vehicles, such as delivery vans, trucks and refuse vehicles, as well as hydrogen-powered rolling stock for use on sections of track that have not been electrified. Almost EUR 1 billion has been set aside for clean transportation until 2023.

The third area of focus for support is research, innovation, business development and skills acquisition, with a particular emphasis on an “in-country” approach. So as to avoid dependency on foreign countries and to prevent the subsidizing of Chinese manufacturers – as has been the case with photovoltaic modules – France intends to encourage the creation of a value chain on home soil.

To make this happen, the government’s hydrogen strategy can build upon the many large industrial enterprises, energy providers, interested regions and innovative startups that are all keen to promote the commercial development of hydrogen production and deployment. Similar to the situation in Germany, there are already numerous parts of France in which hydrogen is seen as a source of hope for regional economic development: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Zero Emission Valley), Brittany, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Grand Est, Hauts-de-France, Occitanie, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to name but a few.

October 2020 witnessed the publication of two initial tenders: “Technical building blocks and demonstrators” (Briques technologiques et démonstrateurs) and “Territorial hydrogen ecosystems” (Ecosystèmes territoriaux hydrogène). Funding applications for these schemes can now be submitted to the French environment and energy agency ADEME. The second tender, especially, targets the formation of consortia that bring together industry players and local authorities in a particular area.

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, May 2021

Author: Uta Mummert

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