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Définitions de l'hydrogène renouvelable et de l'hydrogène bas-carbone

Cet article rédigé en anglais fait le point sur la définition de l’hydrogène renouvelable et de l’hydrogène bas-carbone dans l’Union européenne et en France. N’hésitez pas à nous contacter si vous souhaitez des informations en français ou un conseil juridique dédié.

This paper aims at clarifying the status of the definition of renewable hydrogen and low-carbon hydrogen (LCH) under the European and the French legal frameworks, as of early 2022.

General status of the European and French legal frameworks

The European Commission (EC) published on 15 December 2021 proposals for a Regulation on the internal markets for renewable and natural gases and for hydrogen and for a Directive on common rules for the internal markets in renewable and natural gases and in hydrogen. On the one hand, the Directive proposes a definition of LCH, and on the other hand, renewable hydrogen is defined by reference to the Directive 2018/2001 of 11 December 2018 on the promotion of the use of energy from renewable sources.

Simultaneously, the EC is drafting rules applicable to the production of renewable hydrogen from electricity. The draft delegated regulation setting out appropriate rules for the production of renewable hydrogen from electricity, provides for a definition of fully renewable hydrogen, or more precisely of hydrogen deemed fully renewable, in order to implement Article 27(3) of Directive 2018/2001 above-mentioned. It has been prepared in consideration of the point 90 of the preamble of the Directive, which specified guidelines to define renewable hydrogen.

This is important for the Member States and fuel suppliers since this will be used to verify their compliance with the following obligation of Article 25(1) of the Directive: “each Member State shall set an obligation on fuel suppliers to ensure that the share of renewable energy within the final consumption of energy in the transport sector is at least 14 % by 2030”. The stakes of this definition is even more crucial that, as previously mentioned, the Directive proposal on common rules for the internal markets in renewable and natural gases and in hydrogen, provides in its current form the same definition of renewable hydrogen as in Directive 2018/2001.

Finally, the French legislative framework applicable to hydrogen was published on 18 February 2021 (Law-Decree No. 2021-167 of 17 February 2021), but the implementation decrees remain pending.

Definition of renewable hydrogen and low-carbon hydrogen under the Directive proposal of the EC

The Directive proposal of the EC defines renewable gas: “biogas as defined in Article 2, point (28) of Directive 2018/2001, including biomethane, and renewable gaseous fuels part of fuels of non-biological origins (‘RFNBOs’) as defined in Article 2, point (36) of that Directive”.

The proposal of LCH definition is: “hydrogen the energy content of which is derived from non-renewable sources, which meets a greenhouse gas emission reduction threshold of 70%”.

The threshold applicable to LCH will likely lead to intense discussions between the EC, the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union.

Definition of renewable hydrogen under the draft delegated regulation setting out appropriate rules for the production of renewable hydrogen from electricity

The draft delegated regulation is extensive and very detailed on the definition of (fully) renewable hydrogen. The alternative set of criteria defining such type of hydrogen may be summarized as follows:


Please, note that there might be a partial exemption for the criterion (ii) (a) applicable to a hydrogen power plant connected to the grid, up to 20% of the energy consumed – such portion thus not being subject to the criterion of renewable energy generation under a PPA. To benefit from this exemption, the hydrogen producer shall contribute to the deployment of renewable energy for at least the equivalent amount of energy, pursuant to Article 4(4) of Regulation 2020/1294 of 15 September 2020 on the Union renewable energy financing mechanism. This exemption may allow for a base-load PPA with an alternative supply for peak-load consumption.

Two comments may be raised on the draft delegated regulation.

Firstly, the conditions are tight and strictly specified, which is important to avoid ambiguity. However, there are so many burdensome conditions to demonstrate, in particular in case of connection to a grid, that this might hinder the deployment of hydrogen plants under this scheme.

Secondly, hydrogen partially or wholly produced from low carbon but non-renewable energy sources power – such as nuclear power – may not qualify as fully renewable hydrogen under the draft delegated regulation.

This is logical, since low-carbon is not necessarily renewable, such as nuclear production, and Article 27(3) of Directive 2018/2001 above-mentioned only aims at dealing with renewable energies. The Directive even differentiates fully renewable hydrogen from partially renewable hydrogen, with the aim of calculating the increase of the share of renewable energy in sectors that are expected to rely on liquid fuels in the long term, such as the transportation sector.

Definitions of renewable hydrogen and low-carbon hydrogen in France

The French legislative framework mentioned above – that has not entered into force yet, absent the necessary implementation regulations – divides hydrogen into three categories: renewable, low-carbon and the remaining.

In summary, renewable hydrogen is produced from renewable energy sources and with a carbon threshold to be specified by decree, LCH is produced from low-carbon energy sources – i.e. with the same threshold – which are not renewable, and hydrogen which does not fall within these categories is considered carbon-based hydrogen (“hydrogène carboné”).


The French legal framework which main criterion is the carbon level – both for low-carbon and renewable hydrogen – may not be fully adapted to the upcoming European framework, should the Directive and the delegated regulation be adopted with the same content as their draft. Moreover, the current French criteria of renewable hydrogen are much softer than in the draft European regulation.

Therefore, either the French legal framework would have to be amended – and in any case completed by the awaited implementation decrees – or different definitions of renewable hydrogen will be used in France: the one applicable to French-specific provision, and the one applicable to European-related provisions. Obviously, the latter solution would be very detrimental to the clarity of the legal framework.

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