Two of France’s leading innovators in hydrogen (H2) have thrown their support behind Nicolas Hulot’s €100m ($116.8m) plan to develop a decarbonised H2 sector within the framework of the energy transition.

At the beginning of June, France’s Minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition unveiled his ambitious plan to make France a world leader in H2.

French Minister unveils €100m hydrogen plan

Starting in 2019, €100m ($116.8m) will be earmarked for the implementation of the H2 deployment plan, organised around three main axes:

  • · Creation of a decarbonised industrial sector, with an objective of 10% decarbonised H2 by 2023.
  • · Development for zero emission solutions for road, rail and river transport, with the deployment on the horizon for 2023 of 5,000 light utility vehicles, 200 heavy vehicles (bus, trucks, trains, boats) and 100 H2 stations to refuel vehicles with locally produced H2.
  • · Increase in integration and storage capacities for renewable energies.

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Source: McPhy

Both hydrogen (H2) production and storage specialist McPhy and AREVA H2GEN, a technology provider specialising in H2 production, have welcomed the plan.

“Decarbonised H2 is the energy transition accelerator” were the words that McPhy’s Chairman and CEO Pascal Mauberger, by invitation from Hulot, began his talk at the plans unveiling. He then continued, “The H2 revolution has begun,” citing the numerous projects already at work in the Hexagon.

McPhy said the time has come for a “scale up”. Relying on its capacity for innovation, its leading edge industrial infrastructure and on its mastery of the entire H2 chain, the French company intends to accompany its clients throughout their transformation and to permit clean H2 to achieve its full potential.

Mauberger declared, “Like McPhy, the technologies and industrial fabric are ready for France to position itself at the forefront of the H2 revolution and to actively participate in ‘scaling up’. We salute and give our full support to the national H2 plan, allowing us to take a further step and to create the conditions for strong and sustainable growth in this promising sector, capable of responding to energy, environmental, economic and societal challenges.”

Pascal Pewinski, General Manager of AREVA H2GEN, said the company is one of the five players in the world - and the only French one - capable of responding to these challenges thanks to its PEM electrolysis technology.

“From a financial point of view, the Hydrogen Plan will support these initiatives through subsidies for charging stations and the purchase of vehicles fleets. However, we worry that subsidies for the purchase of electrolysers might be rather ineffective because these tools will have a very little impact on the actual cost of the H2 produced,” estimated Pewinski.

“There are several questions about the traceability of H2, to determine its carbon footprint. Does this mean that there would be a tax on carbonated H2? How will the services provided to the networks by the electrolysers be remunerated? At a Power to Gas level, has a feed-in tariff been planned, in line with the market price for green H2?

“One thing is certain, it is essential to develop a regulation at the French and European level to allow these kinds of projects to emerge while being attractive for investors,” continued Pewinski.

The CEO of AREVA H2Gen also believes that a possible way would be to adapt electricity pricing rules, especially for the production of green H2 by electrolysis of water. This could be done by significantly reducing transport costs and taxes in the price of electric kWh for electrolysers.

This is echoed by McPhy who said, “The water electrolysis technology, producing on-site and on demand from renewable resources, clearly appears to be the cornerstone for the large-scale deployment of decarbonised H2 for industry, mobility and energy.”

The plan was also praised by AFHYPAC (the French Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association). President Philippe Boucly said, “All the conditions are in place to make France a leader in global competition.” He continued by reaffirming his total mobilisation in order to accelerate the development of the French H2 sector.