Towards a green hydrogen society


Our focus on hydrogen and France is complemented by a current policy paper on green hydrogen. In his guest editorial, French politician Michel Delpon, France’s “Monsieur Hydrogène”, discusses the great potential of this emission-free energy source for business, industry and agriculture.

For the last five years, I have dedicated my term as a Member of Parliament to the development of renewable hydrogen in France and Europe. Today, hydrogen has made its mark on the worldwide energy landscape by occupying an important place in politics. Because it is such an important building block of the international climate ambitions of COP 26, every country should be fully briefed on hydrogen energy. However, the environmental and social dimension required to drive the development of this zero-emission energy source is too often lacking. The “CLUB VISION HYDROGENE”, which I founded in March 2022, is a new repository for ideas and at the same time a positive catalyst for action. Its mission is to train stakeholders, identify and promote initiatives, find solutions, share best practices and experiences and, above all, communicate in order to contribute to the dissemination of this form of green energy. The aim here is to provide access to abundant, environmentally friendly energy to as many people as possible, including those who are less well off.

Energy is economically and financially heavily based on volatile pricing. We therefore need to move to an ecological transition based 100% on renewable energy. For the time being, energy may be more expensive, but eventually it will level out: once hydrogen costs as much as fossil fuel, about 2 euros per kilogram, we will be a hydrogen society. All countries will then operate on an even playing field, regardless of the region, including the African nations, which will finally also be included thanks to intensive solar radiation. Hydrogen production will be driven by the mass production of electrolysers, tanks, fuel cells and new use cases. This means between 150,000 and 200,000 jobs for France by 2030, in 25 sectors of activity and around 100 different professions. This will boost upstream production in the entire renewable energy sector: photovoltaics, wind power, methane, hydropower and geothermal, as well as both natural and by-produced hydrogen, not to mention CO2 capture, which is making great progress.

On the downstream side (use side), in addition to mobility, i.e. car, truck, sea and air transport, there will be a gigantic market for industry, especially for steel, concrete, nitrogen fertiliser and construction with hydrogen-powered boilers. Bankers have also begun to understand this paradigm shift and will act accordingly: they are abandoning fossil fuels and increasingly focusing on green finance by selecting investors who do not pollute. The national challenge, as with all interlocking technologies, is to maintain our sovereignty over the entire industrial value chain. In the future, every European country must therefore succeed in striving for this economic sovereignty by promoting clean reindustrialisation, industrial relocation, and shorter transport routes. In 2020, France authorised a 10-billion-euro budget to support the hydrogen sector through the COVID-19 crisis.

Before the Ukraine war and the economic and financial sanctions against Russia, European climate policy was strengthened through the “Fit for 55” package which ambitiously promotes the development of hydrogen technology. At the time, however, no one anticipated the major geopolitical tensions that are now having a huge impact on our economy due to our dependence on imported fossil fuels. The consequences are hugely increased production costs for grey hydrogen made from Russian gas, which in turn makes green hydrogen more competitive.

That is why I am lobbying the government to pass a decree allowing the direct connection of electrolysers, which will fix production costs and fully decouple hydrogen production from fossil fuel market fluctuations. In addition, the next draft law on the ecological transition will address the scaling of renewable energies from 2023 onwards by facilitating permits for the siting of carbon-neutral plants throughout the country. Another of France’s trump cards is the “France 2030” programme, whose goals have been set by the President of the Republic and in which hydrogen plays an important role. Thus, France is the country best positioned to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. It is essential that European countries, which sometimes have different interests, find a unified roadmap to meet the goals of the Paris agreement.

In any case, the drought and fires of the past summer are a serious warning for the future of our planet!