Recent events within the French Hydrogen Community have taken place to merge The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform (HyPaC) and the “Association Française de l’Hydrogène” (AFH2). In result the new French Association for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells (AFHYPAC) has now stepped forward as the national reference point for the government and industry in the field of hydrogen and fuel cells.

In an effort to learn more about the new organisation and next actions in France, EHA sought to discuss with Claude Derive. In the past, Claude Derive has worked with a large utility company in France, mainly in the field of research in energy : clean coal, nuclear, solar, hydrogen. He is now retired and sits as Chairman the Board of the French Association for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells “AFHYPAC”.

EHA: As recently announced, The Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Platform (HyPaC) and the “Association Française de l’Hydrogène” (AFH2) have combined their efforts to accelerate the hydrogen and fuel cell technologies’ deployment in France in a new strong national structure which will federate the hydrogen and fuel cell community in France. What does the merger between these organisation mean for next year(s)?

Claude Derive: Two years ago (2009) the French Hydrogen Association and The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME) decided to created the HyPAC platform. Its purpose was to have a place where all industrial companies related to the hydrogen and fuel cells industry in the country can come together in discussion. They would create common positions on relative topics and represent the industry to the national government. We succeeded in writing a roadmap which was reviewed at national government level. The document which was found interesting for the government and following, an official roadmap was written by ADEME.

Two years later, it was decided to merge the Hydrogen Association and the platform by broadening the mission of the French Hydrogen Association and taking into account the mission of the platform.

Today, AFHYPAC replaces these organizations with a stronger mission and voice toward the national government.

AFHYPAC works to develop projects by facilitating local partners, and is now considered a point of reference for Hydrogen and Fuel Cell technologies in France. For the first time the organization will be working toward obtaining government funding to operate. Most likely funding will be obtained as part of the national grants that are available for energy sources; this effort will support the mission of the organization.


EHA: Are there any demonstration projects planned for the next years in France?

Claude Derive: We have seen that the government is more open today towards hydrogen and fuel cell technologies in comparison to previous years. Last year, the government proposed grants that reached 35 billion Euros for energy efficiency and resource topics. Among this, ADEME manages about 2.8 billion for new industrial organizations. Within these funds, 2 calls for proposals strictly in the field of Hydrogen technologies have been published and a 3rd one will be launched at the end of this year. The calls deal with industrial demonstration in fuel cell stationary applications, and electric and fuel cell vehicle demonstration. This shows that the French government has slightly changed its strategy and has agreed to help the hydrogen field domestically.


EHA: Do you expect the progress regarding political support of the technology in France?

Claude Derive: Other than funding increases, it is difficult to say that the political situation has changed yet. The reality is that more money is put into hydrogen technologies, but France’s political vision has not changed dramatically.

For example, certain regulations have blocked specific projects from being realized.

There are some rules concerning hydrogen referred to as a chemical product. When hydrogen is regarded as a dangerous chemical, there are some rules that prevent using hydrogen for buildings. To store hydrogen within or around a building you need a specific distance to be reached from the storage area to the building. This makes is difficult to use hydrogen in stationary applications for schools, and public buildings.

One of our priorities, as an organisation is to suggest new rules to allow different projects to start in the country.

Another example, with vehicle deployment in France concerns, vehicle license numbers. Today, the Hydrogen car cannot get a license number in France, but cars coming from Germany or other countries can drive in France.


EHA: What is the AFHYPAC Action Plan for 2012?

Claude Derive: If we succeed in getting government funding this will defiantly impact the program for next year. We will be able to organize more of conferences and exhibitions. We will probably help French representation in World Hydrogen Energy Conference (WHEC) in Canada. However we have no precise plans today, these actions will depend on the funding levels.


EHA: What are your objectives within your campaign and main communication targets as an organization?

The association’s mission will be to set up several working groups with government and company representatives that will work as advisory bodies for the national government. They will work on new regulation proposals, a label for technologies that are considered as “Green”,  commence a study that looks at the cost of hydrogen mobility, and other studies to adapt the figures to the French context.

We will also keep our historical objectives and mission to inform the public to prepare education and modules for schools and universities. Presently, there is a discussion in schools with general information on green practices and energy, but nothing substantial up till now.


EHA: Currently are there any incentives within the country that assist the introduction of Hydrogen applications such as hydrogen refuelling for transport and logistics applications? (Taxation incentives, Grants etc.)

No taxation incentives, the only assistance comes from the grants I mentioned and some amounts managed by ADEME to help new projects. The work within the working group on regulation should come to suggest some incentive taxation or loans etc.


EHA: Are there any significant barriers in local regulations that inhibit the introduction of such technologies, especially in building and operating hydrogen fuelling stations?

Claude Derive: Firstly, there are only 3 hydrogen fuelling stations in the country, however they are all private. There are no public refuelling stations on the road. Today, Total, the fuel supplier, has declared they will build stations in France if there are hydrogen cars to supply. This brings out the chicken vs. egg problem. The supply will only be there if there is a market.

Now we can expect the situation to move forward, because in 2011 there is a positively changing situation regarding these technologies. When we see the success of the demonstration projects in France we will then depend on the markets to pick up the pace.