These projects, increasingly large in scale, contribute to experimenting with new clean energy sectors and structuring them. The GRHYD (network management by injection of hydrogen to decarbonise energy) project in Hauts de France, led by ENGIE in association with 10 other partners, aims to generate and then inject hydrogen into the gas network for housing and public buildings. This can replace up to 20% of the natural gas consumed on the network.
The local potential is particularly high, due to the availability of natural resources (water, sun, wind, etc.), as well as the existence of numerous local players likely to have an interest in the production or use of the new fuels. These local ecosystems have been identified by local authorities, resulting in numerous plans to structure energy and transport sectors, starting with hydrogen but also including bioCNG.
The Brittany, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Occitanie regions, for example, have developed ambitious hydrogen plans aimed at uniting and stimulating local producers and users. Brittany thus intends to rely on its significant water resources and the size of the nautical sector to develop local production and use of hydrogen for ships.
The Occitanie region wants to develop its production potential by drawing on its abundant natural resources (water and sun) as well as its economic activities that are particularly conducive to the development of hydrogen. The “green hydrogen” plan, which will see the release of €150m over 10 years, aims to encourage the production, distribution and use of this sustainably produced form of energy. The region’s ports are thus benefiting from investments aimed at developing “quayside hydrogen” solutions. Other investments target the creation of a hydrogen production plant to supply a distribution network along the A9 motorway. Solutions for storing the energy produced offshore by the future Eolmed floating wind farm are also being studied. The Occitanie region is also promoting Toulouse, with its aeronautical research and manufacturing clusters, with the key goal of developing green aircraft. To achieve this, the CNRS, the University of Toulouse, Safran, Airbus and other companies and laboratories are joining forces within the Technocampus Hydrogène, which should be up and running by 2023.
The Occitanie, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes regions will also be experimenting with the first hydrogen trains on French soil. This follows the example of Germany, which financed the development of the hydrogen train using Alstom technology and has already ordered 80 Coradia LINT railcars. The French regions are contributing two-thirds of the cost of purchasing new regional hydrogen trains, with the aim of testing this technology on non-electrified lines. SNCF’s intention to exit from diesel by 2035 is supported by financial efforts from the regions, which wish to take advantage of this technological leap to develop local sectors. The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (AuRA) region wants to develop this sector, as 80% of the required technologies are already present in the region, particularly the chemical industry around Lyon.
The AuRA region is developing the local hydrogen sector in collaboration with international players and start-ups. As mentioned above, it has created Hympulsion in partnership with ENGIE, Michelin, the Banque des Territoires and Crédit Agricole. The project is supported by the French Agency for Ecological Transition, ADEME, and has received a European grant. Eventually, Hympulsion will be the leading operator of hydrogen distribution stations in the region.