French president Macron announces nuclear hydrogen push

Author: Andrea Battaglia

2021/10/13

LONDON (ICIS)--France aims to become a leader in green hydrogen production and will develop small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) to reduce carbon footprint by 2030, French president Emmanuel Macron announced on Tuesday.

The country would build “at least” two giga-factories for green hydrogen electrolysis and one SMR nuclear plant within the decade, president Macron said during a speech at the Elysee Palace where he unveiled a €30 billion plan to restore the French industrial sector.

“Nuclear power, hydrogen and renewable sources will be key elements to allow us producing electricity in a different way and reduce our carbon footprint” the French president said during the launch of the plan dubbed “France 2030”.

The plan detailed by Macron seemed to reiterate the French hydrogen strategy, released in September 2020, which puts France at the top of European nations with regards to hydrogen ambitions.

At that time, the national policy plan outlined 6.5GW of installed electrolysis production capacity by 2030, the highest pledge of EU nations to date. Further, this hydrogen was marked as “zero carbon” suggesting the power for the electrolysers came from either renewables or from France’s nuclear fleet - which is the largest in Europe.

Macron’s announcement came just days after France’s major TotalEnergies, Air Liquide, VINCI and a group of international companies launched a clean hydrogen infrastructure fund which aims to reach €1.5 billion of investments and has already secured initial commitments of €800 million.

FRANCE 2030

Out of the total €30 billion secured by the plan that is set to debut from 2022, €500 million will fund new technologies for renewable power sources. However, it is not clear what sum will be allocated specifically for green hydrogen projects.

Another €1 billion will be allocated to develop new “small, innovative nuclear reactors with better waste management by 2030” Macron said, while €8 billion would fund the decarbonisation of the French industry, in line with the net zero target set by 2050. This sum will sustain the development of new power mixes and innovation in power generation.

The “France 2030” plan includes also €4 billion in funds for sustainable transports, €6 billion for the development of semi-conductors and other innovative electric components and €2 billion for supporting the “agricultural and agrifood revolution” the French president said.

The €30 billion plan come in addition to the €100 billion recovery plan announced last year to help France’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, a large share of which went to promoting greener energy policies, including around €2billion of funding for hydrogen.

Both plans, however, do not provide an extension for blue hydrogen - on which TotalEnergies and AirLiquide recently launched a partnership, - as the country focused primarily on green hydrogen for its recovery spending.