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France cranks up hydrogen plans with 6.5-GW, 2030 target, plays down new nuclear


Finance, energy ministers present hydrogen strategy

Eur2 billion support by 2022, Eur7 billion total by 2030

Energy minister says citizens to decide on new nuclear

London — France plans to spend some Eur7 billion ($8.3 billion) to support a decarbonized hydrogen economy, setting a target of 6.5 GW of electrolysis capacity by 2030, according to a strategy presented Sept. 8 by the finance and energy ministers.

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The strategy targets carbon savings of 6 million mt a year of CO2 by 2030, equivalent to the emissions of Paris, it said with heavy transport playing a key role (road, rail, barges).

In a first step, the government has committed Eur2 billion from its coronavirus recovery plan over the next two years with two tenders underway committing Eur350 million and Eur275 million to pilot and regional projects.

A key focus for 2021 would be a European hydrogen project similar to the bloc's battery alliance and two planned gigafactories, to which France has committed Eur1.5 billion.

According to agency reports, finance minister Bruno Le Maire is to discuss hydrogen plans this week with German economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier.

An initial expression of interest in February resulted in 160 French hydrogen project proposals representing Eur32.5 billion of investment volume, the ministry said.

France currently uses 900,000 mt of hydrogen mainly in refineries and the chemical sector, emitting 9 million mt/year of CO2, it said.

Nuclear steer

In an interview with France Inter, new energy minister Barbara Pompili has said a decision on new nuclear build in France would be down to citizens in 2022 and 2023 with the country facing a choice by 2035 whether to continue or whether to stop nuclear long term.

Pompili is the fourth energy minister since President Emanuel Macron came to power in 2017, with the administration delaying a target to reduce the share of nuclear in the French power mix to 50% by 10 years to 2035.

France's recovery plans also set aside some Eur470 million for the nuclear industry to develop skills with employment the key focus of the plans.

The hydrogen sector could create some 50,000 to 150,000 jobs in France with a focus on developing electrolyzer capacity, it said.