Territorial perspectives and development potentials: France

Nov 9, 2023

Hydrogen is making rapid strides in France. As a sustainable energy carrier, it has attracted attention from governments, businesses, and the public as a viable substitute for conventional energy resources.   

In this article, we delve into the present status of hydrogen in France, shedding light on government initiatives, pioneering projects, and the obstacles faced on the path to widespread integration.

In France, the annual industrial hydrogen production exceeds 900,000 tones. Approximately 94% is derived from fossil fuels such as gas, coal, and hydrocarbons. The primary applications for hydrogen are in desulfurising petroleum fuels, accounting for 60% of the market, followed by ammonia synthesis, primarily for fertilisers (25%), and chemical processes (10%).

As a consequence of this hydrogen production method, it contributes to 11.5 million tons of CO2 emissions annually, representing approximately 3% of the country’s total emissions. In order to reduce those emissions, the government implemented a national strategy.

National Hydrogen Development Plan 2018: 

France has taken the lead in hydrogen by implementing a proactive approach to encourage its development. The government has drawn up strategies and action plans to encourage its adoption in key sectors, such as the launch of the 100M€/year National Hydrogen Development Plan (PNDH) in 2018. Its ambition is to become a world leader in hydrogen by 2030.

National Strategy 2020: 

As a key component of its strategy, the government is committed to decarbonizing the industrial sector with a targeted reduction of emissions by 81% compared to 2015 levels by the year 2050. Decarbonized hydrogen has emerged as one of the ambitious solutions to curbing CO2 emissions and mitigating its impact on the atmosphere. This plan is committing 7 billion euros between 2020 and 2030.

Moreover, between 2021 and 2022, a substantial budget has been added to the 7billion euros for the 2020 strategy. The budget now comes to over 9 billion euros to support this strategy. In line with this initiative, France is actively accelerating the ecological transition through the advancement of low-carbon hydrogen technologies. The country is prioritizing three main areas in this strategy:

  • Decarbonizing industry through the emergence of a French electrolysis industry: France has set itself a target of 6.5 GW of electrolyzes installed by 2030, corresponding to the production of 680,000 tones of renewable or low-carbon hydrogen per year
  • Developing heavy-duty mobility with low-carbon hydrogen: through calls for collaborative projects
  • Supporting research, innovation, and skills development to foster the uses of tomorrow: research programs set up and support for the development of trades and qualifications campuses in high schools and universities to develop skills in the h2 sector. The strategy is in progress.

 Hydrogen in France: Current State and Prospects for the Future 

New H2 strategy 

The commitment to the national strategy has been reaffirmed. By the end of 2021, the French president announced a new investment plan called France 2030. This plan represents 54 Billion euros.

The plan aims to address France’s industrial lag by implementing measures to invest significantly in cutting-edge technologies and provide substantial support for the ecological transition.

More than 3 billion euros are being used to the Important Projects of Common European Interest (IPCEI) to develop projects on green Hydrogen. Those projects will enable:

  • The construction of four electrolyzer gigafactories in France (representing up to 40% of the European electrolyzer market by 2030)
  • Hydrogen tank production sites
  • Fuel cells for sustainable mobility
  • Hydrogen-powered trains and utility vehicles
  • Materials needed to produce this equipment.

 Moreover, against a backdrop of energy crisis, a revised energy strategy is taking shape, with a clear objective: to accelerate the decarbonization of transport. Here are the main approaches of this new strategy:

  • Propose an operational plan for hydrogen hubs. Pooling production in these hubs should lower costs and encourage the development of low-carbon industrial activities.
  • Access to low-carbon electricity for these hubs is also a key issue in this work. Large electrolyzes will need to be able to conclude competitive long-term contracts with electricity suppliers.
  • This strategy must also include mastery of the hydrogen-related equipment that will enable France to secure a crucial position in a fast-growing global market.

 Hydrogen in France in 2022:  

Key figures:  

  • 61 H2 refueling stations (HRS)
  • More than 1,150 hydrogen-powered vehicles on the road (33 buses, 550 cars, 240 bicycles, 2 boats, 325 forklift trucks)

 Hydrogen in France in 2030: 

  • 1000 HRS
  • 300 000 light vehicles, 5000 heavy-duty vehicles, 1000 boats, 250 trains.

Call for proposals:  

The “Hydrogen Territorial Ecosystems – EcosysH₂” call for projects has just been relaunched.  France 2030’s “Hydrogen Territorial Ecosystems” call for proposals aims to finance the production and distribution of hydrogen and the deployment of vehicles. Since it was first launched in 2018, 35 ecosystems have been supported across France, for over €320 million in public funding. The French government had earmarked €320 million for the 2020/2022 period.

This Ecosys2 AAP is aimed at all companies in the energy, industry, transport or construction and public works sectors, local authorities, or public players in charge of operating transport networks and port areas. It will be open until the 19th of September 2023.

A maximum of €175 million is available for this call. This call for projects is part of the France 2030 investment program and should be renewed in 2024.

To conclude, hydrogen has become a crucial element in France’s energy transition strategy, offering immense potential to transform various industries and play a pivotal role in fostering a sustainable future. Looking ahead, unlocking the full potential of hydrogen in France will heavily rely on fostering partnerships, dedicating resources to research and development, and enacting strong and effective policies.


Bibliography : 

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