France’s strategy to become the world leader in low-carbon hydrogen by 2030 is taking shape. France started this race in 2020 with a plan of 7 billion euros as part of France Relance. A year ago, this envelope was inflated by an additional 2 billion euros within the framework of France 2030. In general, France therefore plans to spend, in ten years, 9 billion euros on this small molecule, considered a strategy to decarbonize industry and mobility. .
Two years after this start, the first major investments in the territory materialized. Visiting the site of the automotive supplier Plastic Omnium in Venette, near Compiègne (Oise), the head of government Elisabeth Borne announced on Wednesday that 2.1 billion euros of public credits will be invested in 10 projects. This should generate 3.2 billion euros of additional private investment. “In total, 5.3 billion euros will be invested in France”lined up at Matignon.
2.1 billion euros in public loans in France
These 10 industrial projects were selected within the framework of a PIIEC, an Important Project of Common European Interest. This device, which was born a few years ago, made it possible to request the European Commission for permission to distribute large amounts of state aid to industrial projects. As part of this process, in July the Commission selected 41 projects led by 15 Member States of the European Union and for which a maximum amount of 5.4 billion euros of aid can be given to the States concerned. In other words, the Commission did not itself pay this 5.4 billion euros, but authorized the States to pay this aid.
Of these 41 projects, a quarter are French, we welcome Matignon. “Our country represents one of the four projects. This is the recognition of our strategy and the work done. This is a giant step for hydrogen in France”even estimated by Elisabeth Borne, during her speech.
Soon, ten new tricolor gigafactories
These 10 projects, spread over 7 regions, are supported by heavyweights, such as Alstom, Arkema and Plastic Omnium, but also by smaller players such as McPhy, Genvia and Elogen. These companies plan to build giant factories dedicated to the production of electrolyzers (industrial devices, still very expensive, which make possible the breaking up a molecule of water (H2O), separation of an O atom from two H atoms using an electric current), and equipment for movement, such as fuel cells and tanks for storing hydrogen.
This is precisely the Plastic Omnium project, which intends to build a gigafactory dedicated to new generation tanks, just 4 km from the current site of Venette. This giant factory will be the subject of an investment of 160 million euros in 2028, with the key to creating 150 new jobs.
In total, these ten projects, which are still considered risky due to the low maturity of these new technologies, should create 5,200 direct jobs on French soil. “By switching to carbon-free hydrogen, France chooses jobs, sovereignty and carbon neutrality”defended the Prime Minister.
Building a sovereign sector from start to finish
France thus intends to support the production of all the technological bricks essential to the construction of a sector. “Our ambition is to create a sovereign sector from start to finishinsisted Matignon, referring to R&D, industrialization and use of hydrogen.
At the same time, the government intends to support the development of demand with the decarbonization of pilot industrial sites, such as Arcelor Mittal in Dunkirk. The goal is to ensure that “The emerging demand can be fed by a French or European offer on these subjects. This is the balance we want to respect in order, obviously, to avoid buying materials or technologies developed elsewhere “supports Elisabeth Borne’s entourage.
Last week, the European Commission announced that it had selected 35 other projects as part of the second wave of the PIIEC dedicated to hydrogen. Brought to 13 States, they will benefit from 5.2 billion euros of aid. The French government will communicate at the end of October the selected tricolor projects.
The third and fourth wave of calls for projects will also be studied in Brussels in the coming months. “A dozen French projects remain in the running”assured the Prime Minister.
If the French strategy for low-carbon hydrogen takes its first steps, it still has a long way to go. While, in 2030, France is targeting 6,500 megawatts (6.5 gigawatts) of hydrogen production through water electrolysis, today this production remains below 10 megawatts. Matignon, who determined that 407 megawatts were deployed, acknowledged that a great effort remains to be made.
Brussels disagrees with the regulations
The government intends to increase the production of hydrogen and its use in 2027. To support this increase, the crisis that is currently going through the French nuclear fleet, and which should last until at least 2024, will be completely resolved. France, in fact, relies largely on a carbon-free mix of electricity thanks to the civil atom to produce clean hydrogen, the capacities of renewable energies are insufficient.
However, on this topic, major differences persist in Brussels. In fact, at the moment, only hydrogen from renewable electricity (wind, photovoltaic) is considered “green” by the European executive.
For its part, the French government is campaigning for the molecule to get the “green” label when it comes to nuclear power, due to the low carbon footprint of this technology. This battle is more strategic because France, unlike other countries such as Germany and Belgium, does not rely on the import of hydrogen.
“Emergence of a sector requires an appropriate regulatory framework”by Elisabeth Borne. “We will continue to fight to identify low carbon hydrogen in order to achieve the goals of reducing our emissions. We will remain very attentive to the European regulations regarding hydrogen”he added, referring to these negotiations.