Categories: Europe

France Invests in a Hydrogen Future

Nicolas Hulot, © Ministère de la Transition écologique et solidaire

Compared to other countries in Europe, France has launched a sizeable number of projects on hydrogen and fuel cells. Reportedly, the latest plan of the government is to move far beyond current figures: In early June, former environment minister Nicolas Hulot, a member of EELV, France’s Green Party, said that France would provide EUR 100 million to support the technologies over the coming years. He also presented a road map in the hopes that hydrogen can be integrated into several industries. The overarching goal is to decarburize the country’s energy supply bit by bit.

Hulot, whose nature series Ushuaïa made him a popular TV personality, wanted to turn hydrogen into a central pillar of his country’s energy system and intended for France to become a leader in hydrogen technology. In an unexpected twist, he resigned during a live radio show on Aug. 28. This month, French President Emmanuel Macron named François de Rugy the new environment minister. At the very least, de Rugy has been skeptical of putting up more nuclear power plants.

The 2023 aim was to build 100 fueling stations, plus 5,000 light and 200 heavy-duty commercial vehicles as well as vessels for air, water and land transportation. By 2028, four times that number was to be in service. By 2023, 10 percent of the hydrogen consumed in industry was to be sourced from renewables, and between 20 percent and 40 percent in 2028 at the latest. Hopes were that a broader range of hydrogen applications would result in 10 to 12 megatons lower carbon dioxide emissions by 2030. If the road map is left unchanged, the organization in charge of coordinating the effort will be French environment agency Ademe.

A study by consulting firm McKinsey has shown that the country’s objectives could generate revenues of about EUR 8.5 billion per year in 2030 and create more than 40,000 jobs. Hulot had also planned to draw up technical requirements for injecting hydrogen into the pipeline system. There has been no word yet on what a post-2019 budget for the technology would look like.

As little as four weeks after Hulot’s road map presentation, Paris-based gas supplier Air Liquide announced that it would support STNE, a Chinese startup, financially and in terms of expertise. It paid around EUR 10 million for a minority stake and said it would help the business get around 7,500 hydrogen-powered trucks and 25 fueling stations on the road by 2020. In an unrelated piece of news, Air Liquide stated that it had increased the number of hydrogen taxicabs in its Hype vehicle fleet, which it operates in partnership with Société du Taxi Electrique Parisien in Paris, to 100 in July. The goal by the end of 2020 was 600.



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