French hydrogen consumption stands at 900,000 tonnes per year. It is used in steelmaking, chemicals and refining, most notably. Producing this quantity generates 11.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 3% of total French emissions. On a global scale, gray hydrogen (hydrogen that comes from fossil fuels) produces 116 million tonnes of carbon dioxide every year.
In May 2022, the European Union unveiled its “REPowerEU” plan: a program which aims to strengthen the green transition, the diversity of the energy mix and therefore the European Union’s energy independence. On February 13, 2023, the EU presented the detailed rules of what could be qualified as green or renewable hydrogen. It must be produced in a renewable way, such as electrolysis, which must also be associated with a renewable electricity source. France has an advantage here in the form of nuclear energy, which has been approved as a source of renewable energy.
Currently, green hydrogen represents only 1% of global hydrogen production. The preference for gray hydrogen is explained by its production cost, which is estimated to be between three and six times cheaper than the production of green hydrogen by electrolysis. According to the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry, more sustained production of green hydrogen could represent 20% of the effort to limit global warming to 2%. This is why the France Hydrogen Association wants to reduce the production of gray hydrogen to 1.07 million tonnes per year by 2030.
For its part, the European Union plans for France to produce 10 million tonnes of green hydrogen nationally (14% of the EU’s total electricity consumption) and to import 10 million tonnes.
This goal seems attainable, as France has the necessary tools to position itself as a leader in the production of green hydrogen, thanks to the fact that it accounts for 6% of electrolysis volumes (largest share in the world). The development of this new sector would therefore ensure the creation of 50,000 to 150,000 jobs.
Historically, France was among the first high-income countries to adopt a hydrogen plan in 2018, strengthened by the national hydrogen strategy implemented in 2020 and 2023.
These national efforts also materialize during international trade fairs, such as Global Industrie, which was held in Lyon (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region) from March 7-10, 2023. In fact, 2023 was the year that saw the “hydrogen-powered car” being discussed.
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