08 July 2021

Two calls for projects to meet the 2030 target!

After the Hulot Hydrogen plan in 2018, which announced the ambition of creating a French carbon-free industrial sector, in September 2020 the State launched a national strategy that aims to make France a global player in hydrogen by 2030. The strategy, which relies on industrial offers on French territory, has already been made concrete with two calls for projects. Arnaud Leroy, Chairman of ADEME (the French environment and energy management agency), tells us more. 

Arnaud Leroy, Chairman of ADEME. © Photo credit :  J. Chiscano 

At the end of October 2020, two calls for projects were launched as part of the national strategy for accelerating carbon-free hydrogen. They are backed by ADEME. What are the issues at stake?

Admittedly, the French hydrogen sector is not yet mature but it is developing a structure throughout the value chain. The 2018 Hulot plan had successfully paved the way but without the necessary funding. Launched in September 2020 in connection with the recovery plan, the national strategy raises the stakes, with sizeable resources, a 10-year horizon and the challenge of accelerating and sustaining trends already at work. The ambition of these calls for projects is to make significant advances wherever there is already an advantage. Hydrogen, which now forms part of the French energy roadmap, is paving the way for innovations. We have targets that we must meet, more particularly regarding HGVs, trains, buses and river transport. The government is determined to support the development of a virtually 100% French sector by involving the whole ecosystem, in particular local ecosystems.


What can we expect from local authorities in the development of the sector? How will the “Territorial hydrogen ecosystems” call for projects contribute to it?

This is the logical progression of what had been initiated with the call for projects “Hydrogen territories” in 2016. It is the second call for projects aiming to roll out “regional hubs”. The aim is to support investments in ecosystems that combine production/distribution infrastructures with uses of hydrogen, while at the same time structuring the sector and facilitating economies of scale as much as possible. The backing of the regional councils is essential, and closer collaboration with private-sector players will consolidate numerous concrete uses, not least for mobility, but will also identify other uses, such as waste collection vehicles or farm machinery for instance. Lastly, we expect to see the development of certain stationary applications, such as refuelling boats in dock, event management and building and public works, or in support of networks and micro-networks in non-interconnected areas. 

We have already selected seven “regional ecosystems” to help them come into being:  AUXR_HUBH2, Cannes Lérins H2, DBeaut'Hy Truck, H2 Loire Vallée, H2 NFC, RVH2 and VHyGO. This first wave will raise 45 million euros of financial aid out of a total budget of €275 million. The last date for this call for projects is set at 14 September 2021. We know that projects will take time to mature. An extension until 2022 or even 2023 is already under consideration. 


The “Technological building blocks and demonstrators” call for projects for its part is a new approach. What is its aim?

This call for projects concerns the innovation process. Projects that are complicated to put together, that require a structured investment plan and that are long-term. Industries must identify areas of innovation to develop or improve components and systems concerning the production and transport of hydrogen and its uses. Such projects can also consist of demonstrators, pilot schemes or commercial firsts nationwide. We encourage players in the sector to enter into new partnerships in the plastics industry for instance. Hydrogen is becoming a veritable instrument of innovation. The aim is to be rapidly equipped like other countries. To select the most pertinent projects, our teams rely on a call for expression of interest*, launched at the beginning of 2020, which aimed to identify formative projects for the hydrogen sector. With this call for expression of interest, our teams have a trajectory for assessing and selecting projects. The deadline for submitting projects was 31 December 2022, and projects are examined on an ongoing basis to be able to release the funds and launch the projects quickly.  

*« Innovative projects of European or national dimensions on the design, production and usage of hydrogen systems »


What advice would you give to project owners for a successful application?    

For the territorial ecosystems call for projects, we encourage local authorities to form partnerships with industries and even go as far as co-development. They can also rely on a call for expression of interest to identify partners and construct an H2 ecosystem. This technology is not easy to comprehend, and the complementarity with industries can lead one to identify other solutions and uses. 

On the other hand, we mustn't fall into the trap of the quick fix. Hydrogen is still one solution among many and it must be adopted for its relevance. We invite applicants to embrace the culture of restraint dictated by the green transition.With regard to the “Technological building blocks and demonstrator” call for projects, the submitted project must be substantial with high volumes of investment. That does not mean that we leave small structures by the wayside, but they should play their part in consortia. The large structures should take the small ones on board in groupings in a spirit of balance. We know that the race for innovation will be driven by small structures, the start-ups. Furthermore, the issue of competence and labour will very quickly emerge. At present, certain skills do not yet exist, and only large groups will be able to rise to the challenge of training and contribute with solutions.


2030 is just around the corner, so how can we gain momentum on an adequate scale?

France must be on track by 2030. The work we are doing now is very important, it is a veritable foundation and we have little time to consolidate it. Our approach must be guided by coherence and consistency. With the State's Hydrogen strategy and a €7 billion plan, we already have visibility up to 2030. It is by no means insignificant. But the success of the programme will also depend on keeping to the announced budget.


For more information : https://www.economie.gouv.fr/plan-de-relance/lancement-appels-projets-filiere-hydrogene

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