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Hydrogen, the promise of clean energy

Hydrogène : la promesse d’une énergie propre ?
Published on
10 March 2021

Expected to revolutionize the transportation, industrial and building sectors, hydrogen is one of the most promising clean energy sources. What are the challenges posed byof using hydrogen energy for the various stakeholders in the value chain, between now and 2030, particularly in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region?

Carine Sebi, professor of economics at Grenoble Ecole de Management, coordinator of the Energy for Society Chair at GEM, and initiator of two research projects on the deployment of hydrogen mobility: ZEV in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and H2Mobility in Germany, shares her insights with us.

Hydrogen energy, an important resource for the energy transition, is expensive to produce, particularly using low-carbon methods. In France, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes is a pioneer in this field. What is the current state of affairs?

In France, eight of the ten existing hydrogen stakeholders are based in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. CEA and Institut Liten in Grenoble have worked for over 20 years on fuel cells and technologies related to hydrogen energy. Fuel cells, which are energy converters - or energy carriers - produce electrical energy for a variety of uses. A number of joint projects are also underway on electrolysis and hydrogen storage. Research is underway to enable the emergence and development of these technologies as part of cleaner mobility and industry.

In the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, the value chain is also represented by key players such as Air Liquide for production; Engie as an operator; McPhy or Ataway for the manufacture of electrolyzers; Symbio (created with CEA patents) for the design of fuel cells, which make it possible to convert hydrogen to electricity; Sylfen for high-temperature converters (also closely linked to the CEA). The cities of Chambéry and Clermont-Ferrand are equipped with the first hydrogen charging stations for vehicles, a regional project backed by Hympulsion - an industrial alliance between Michelin and Engie.

In this context, what is the mission of the Energy for Society Chair, which was created at GEM, and for which you are the coordinator?

Since November 2019 - when it was created - the mission of the Energy for Society Chair has been to study new energy services that make it possible to reconcile the implementation of new economic models and public support. The chair is currently studying the Rhône-Alpes project Zero Emission Valley (ZEV), whose goal is to develop a hydrogen network, suitable infrastucture, and new related uses in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The chair is also assessing a similar project in Germany, called H2Mobility.

In the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, ZEV aims to bring together the region's hydrogen stakeholders to overcome the paradox of "the chicken and the egg" and make it possible to create infrastructure that will help expand use of the energy source.

What are the major challenges currently faced in the world of hydrogen mobility?

Today, hydrogen is 95% "grey" - meaning that it is produced using fossil energy sources (natural gas, oil). The main challenge is to encourage the production of "green" or "yellow" hydrogen, through water electrolysis, which are respectively associated with renewable electricity (solar, wind, hydraulic) and nuclear energy, and of "blue or turquoise" hydrogen, obtained from fossil fuels but whose emissions are captured and stored.

Hydrogen now forms a part of the national low-carbon strategies of most developed countries, and considerable effort is underway to reduce the cost of electrolyzers and develop an industrial channel to produce low-carbon hydrogen. France's strategy involves the allocation of seven billion euros by 2030 for this sector - and nine billion in Germany, the European pioneer.

With ZEV, the idea is to create European hydrogen champions, by developing a group that encompasses the entire value chain. This movement is currently underway in order to get ahead of Asia technologically. The recovery plan for the sector should serve as a lever for France, giving concrete form to the efforts expended in recent years to reduce costs and improve hydrogen mobility within the next 5 or 10 years - the time required to organize the sector. In France, Hympulsion's partners intend to take advantage of this recovery plan to scale up the production of green hydrogen and build on the virtuous circle.

GEM energy news

Save the date / Rencontres de l'Znergie in hyflex format

On Thursday, April 8, 2021, starting at 4:30 p.m., the Energy for Society Chair of Grenoble Ecole de Management will hold a remote "Rencontres de l'Energie" seminar, in HyFlex format, on the topic of:  Hydrogen: the facts
Among the topics that will be discussed are, how should the seven billion euros allocated to the French hydrogen sector, as part of the national recovery plan, be used between now and 2030? What uses should be prioritized for hydrogen production, and with what low-carbon guarantees? In what timeframe, 15 or 30 years? What is foreseen by the hydrogen mobility initiatives Zero Emission Valley in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and H2Mobility in Germany?
Researchers and professionals in the sector will discuss the industry's latest trends in a round-table discussion. The speakers will include: Carine Sébi, professor-researcher and coordinator of the Energy Chair. Fabrice Arroyo, professor and program director of the Mastère Spécialisé Energie, Pierre-Henri Grenier, Executive Director of the Banque de la Transition Énergétique, Thierry Raevel, AURA Regional Director at Engie, Xavier Victor, Vice President of Technology, Projects and Industrial, H2 Energy Initiatives at Air Liquide, Elisabeth Logeais, Chief Executive of Tenerrdis and Anne-Lorene Vernay, professor-researcher at Grenoble Ecole de Management.


Save the date / Energy Economics Program

 On April 26, 2021, GEM will launch the continuing education program Energy Economics for Managers in partnership with EIT InnoEnergy. This 100% online, English-language program is 35 hours long and is intended for professionals in the energy sector. It is designed to equip them with the economic and financial tools required to develop and analyze business strategies in the energy markets. This program will be taught by teachers of Grenoble Ecole de Management who are experts in the energy sector. Learners will have access to innovative teaching methods (mentoring, serious games, etc.) and to a unique Europe-wide network of industrial and academic stakeholders in the sustainable energy sector.

Registration will be open until April 12, 2021

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