This year’s edition of the FCH JU stakeholder’s meeting brought to light inspiring developments of the past year, while increased participation of European level decision makers flagged that the sector is receiving more national and European political support. EHA took the opportunity to discuss the event and impressions with Mr. Pierre Etienne Franc, current Chairman of the Governing Board of the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Undertaking (FCH JU), the European industry-led private-public partnership working towards acceleration of market deployment of fuel cells and hydrogen technologies. Mr. Franc has more than 15 years of experience from the Air Liquide Group, most recently heading its Technologies of the Future department. He takes up the lead of the Joint Undertaking at a crucial stage of the debate regarding the future of European energy and transport systems as well as the financial framework for the application of new technologies.

EHA: During the Stakeholder’s Assembly this month we heard numerous times from the European Commission representatives that Europe has changed its perspective in the last year(s) and has accepted Hydrogen as an energy vector. What is your impression?

Mr. Franc: What is very important to take from the event is that for the first time we had a very good support of severalDirectorates of the European Commission.  Research was always well behind us, because this is our “home” in some ways, but representatives from DG MOVE, DG Energy, DG Climate Action and Commissioner Cabinets members are now increasingly present and active; which means hydrogen has moved much further from research. We believe by 2020 the various applications of hydrogen and Fuel Cells will be market ready, this is why we need extensive investments in the field.

So it is very encouraging to receive the support from the European Level, and proof that decision makers are convinced that hydrogen will be a substantial energy vector and transport fuel.


EHA: On November 22nd, you were moderating the discussion during the Lunch Debate: Bringing hydrogen and fuel cell technologies to the market: How to finance deployment of fuel cell. What was the most significant point brought out during the discussions with regard to financing?


Mr. Franc: It was made evident that to deploy a clean European energy and transport system, market forces will not succeed alone.  On the one side, the European Commission tells us that if you want to Member States to commit to lower CO2 targets and the deployment of hydrogen and fuel cells, industry has to prove its commitment as well. Simultaneously, industry wants to see more support from European and National decision makers. We are more of less in a “Catch 22” situation as everyone agrees that we need to find a solution, but to do so, we will need commitments (political and financial) between a mixture of players: Industry, Member States, European Decision Makers and European public. What is getting commonly accepted is that market alone will not make it. A Recent Bruegel Study commissioned by the FCH JU on the issue of enabling market entry of such technologies basically concludes the same things and proposed several schemes to give solutions to this catch 22.


EHA: In one of the sessions fiscal incentives were brought to question; Industry was asked what sort of fiscal incentives they would want to see in place inEurope to assist the commercialisation in transport. It became clear the fiscal incentives are positive in getting vehicles on the roads, but not necessarily resulting in lower vehicle costs to facilitate commercialisation. From your perspective, what type of fiscal incentives would you like to see in place to get infrastructure to a commercial level?

Mr. Franc: I think that we are not at the stage to require dedicated fiscal incentives for infrastructure. We are more at the stage to facilitate end user schemes and burden sharing with financing institutions to decrease the level of first mover disadvantage. Consortium schemes and insurance funding for example by the European Investment Bank or other similar institution would assist finance the infrastructure rollout at this stage. In the future we might have to consider other tools, but probably not at this stage.

EHA: We also heard the importance of action at local national and regional levels, With regards to the role out of electric/hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure, What would you see as the role of the European Hydrogen Association?

Mr. Franc: We see that EHA and HyER can play a significant role as the dissemination arm of the Joint undertaking to make sure theMemberStates and European regions receive the right messages fromEurope. EHA is a very good partner in this regard, especially in the countries which may need more support. EHA is very useful also to help SMEs build projects and enter European consortiums.  We will see HyER play its role in electric vehicle deployment and supporting identification of regions which are able to support financing for European level projects.